About MeMy name is Zukiswa Wanner and I am a South African Writer. I have contributed material to newspapers and magazines that include the Sunday Independent, Oprah, Elle, Juice and Afropolitan. My debut novel, The Madams (Oshun Books, 2006), explores race relations while my second novel, Behind Every Successful Man (Kwela Books, 2008), looks at what happens when husband and wife roles are reversed. Both novels are set in post-apartheid South Africa.
In marking Writers’ Worth Week, I have given fellow writer Lori Widmer, space to be guest blogger. To the writers, the readers, and those who may employ writers’ talents…please read…
Another Missed Opportunity for Government to Listen Asked on a South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) news insert whether I thought the Arts Consultative Conference would make a difference to the…
My final day in Kakamega is my most disturbing day of all the school tours I have undertaken both in South Africa and Kenya. A primary school that was not on schedule has begged that we make a stop at their school because no-one ever visits their school and they feel it would be a boost for their students. I buy some few books from the local bookstore for donation to the school because one can’t go empty-handed, you know?
So I get to Ifetwere Primary School and for the first time ever, I am really really down. This school, which is on the border of two constituencies, has failed to get any assistance from politicians in either of the two constituencies they border because the politicians don’t know where the students of the parents who attend Ifetwere vote (or so one of the teachers tells me). Despite the staff component of 11 qualified teachers, one can’t help being depressed. Two of the classes (Early Development and Standard 4) are held under trees and rainy season has just begun. Three of the classes (Standards 1, 2, and 3) are held in the local church. The children take up three different spaces in the room but I suspect it can be quite distracting trying to teach – or learn- under those conditions. As if the distraction is not bad enough, when the church needs the building for religious purposes, classes are cancelled. And when it rains, classes have to be cancelled as there is no room for them.
In Western Kenya, the wet season has just started so at Ifwetere, there will be many classes cancelled. And yet, these are Kenya’s future leaders who are expected to leave this primary school with a KCPE certificate. Jan eh? And my biggest issue with South African schools was that some had no functional library. At Ifwetere, it’s not even about a library building. Classrooms are a luxury. But the parents and teachers of this school are no helpless victims. As I watch, I see parents pushing wheel barrows with stones that will be used to finish a block that is semi-finished. The Principal tells me that they have assigned days for parents to come and collect stones.
The parents were responsible for making the bricks and ensuring the block is where it is at now. The stones are there but it will take 25 bags of cement to get the block, which will house the classes outside and at the church, finished. Thereafter iron sheeting for roofing will be required.
My new friend Dr.Bob of MMUST offered to buy five copies of Men of the South for the MMUST Literature Department. I there and then come up with a plan for the cement. In the presence of Boniface, I pledge to the Principal that the good Dr.B will, instead of transferring the money for the books to me, buy some bags of cement for their buildings (I am wary of donating cash). The cost of the books Dr.B is getting will be enough to buy ten bags of cement. From Ifwetere, I rush off to Dr.B to tell him of this new development. I challenge him to get his staff to donate a bag each and he agrees. And now I challenge YOU to get the roof and the floor of Ifwetere done.
After all, education should be every child’s right not privilege. By doing something, you would be helping the children of Ifwetere Primary School finally get that right.
Readers, are you up to the challenge? If so, get in touch and I will let you know how you can help from wherever you are.
I wake up early so I can be at the sports field of St. Monica Lubao by seven. The occasion? I am not only attending, but have been invited as guest of honour to my very first bullfighting contest. Boniface claims, tongue-firmly-in-cheek, that the Western Kenya bullfighting is definitely more civilised than the Spanish one as it’s a contest of bull vs bull and not man vs bull. “Maybe its because we understand that human beings have evolved from being animals and so they are above beast,” he jokes.
Judging by the crowd and the number of bulls that have been entered for the contest, bullfighting is taken very seriously around here. There are several hundreds of people and some children have climbed up really thin trees to get the best view of the contest. Some local politicians are even present because their attendance supposedly gives them credence as ‘men of the people’. The bulls arrive with an escort of stick-carrying young men playing drums and singing. In each group, there are also women ululating and cheering on for the bull. Some of the bulls are calm but others come ferociously scratching the earth and with smoke literally coming out of their noses. B tells me it is alleged that some of these bulls are given bhang (zol, weed, marijuana) to make them more ferocious prior to the fight…so there you have it folks who claim grass makes you mellow, it has the opposite effects on the bulls here.
The bulls are mostly named after politicians. There is a Raila, a Saddam, and a Mandela. Raila runs away in first round, Mandela loses in quarter finals, and Saddam fights nobly but loses in semi-final. I am immensely grateful that the organisers did not agree to my suggestion that we slaughter and have the losers in a community braai. I can’t imagine what would have happened if I reported to my compatriots that I ate a bull named after the Grand Old Man.
There can only be one winner and the person with the winning bull gets KSh5,000 and a goat, possibly for a nyama choma later.
My morning has been interesting and the day is just about to get better. I meet up with Kenyan writer Eva Kasai whose memoirs of being a domestic worker I have heard much about. We have a book exchange and a serious chat but soon I am playing bad host as always happens when I have just been given a book I have not read. I soon excuse myself from Eva and for the next day and a half, i am closed up in my room reading a highly engaging memoir. So there you have it Marita, you too can move from being a maid to being a writer…although the salary of the former may sometimes be better!
Friday Busy day. I have two schools – a primary and high school to visit today. St. Anne’s Junior Academy have gone all out and I am in absolute awe….
I am in pain. Psychological pain. Overnight I read a lot of essays by students from one particular school of the ‘tears cascaded down my rosy cheeks’ and ‘I felt…
Wednesday Kisumu!!! We start off at 9 in the morning at a leisurely pace. There is Boniface, Martin (the man in charge of nutrition and advising the community on balanced…
My morning is lazy and free. After going through the students’ work for the other schools, I decide to work off yesterday’s food by going for a swim. The pool…
DAY 2 – Monday I have a free morning so I spend it going through the essays of the school I will visit tomorrow afternoon. Some are pretty well-written and…