23rd March, 2011 - John Rose visits Grace School
'ORPHANS AND PRINCESSES'
“Put your hand up if you are beautiful!”
All the girls’ hands go straight in the air – and one boy’s, to the amusement of his friends.
“Put your hands up if you are clever!”
All the boys’ hands go straight up this time, followed by the girls, more slowly.
“Put your hands up if God thinks you are special!”
All hands go straight up – many children with both hands raised.
They have no doubts that God loves them and has chosen them.
Many of these children, at Grace School in South Africa, could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. All of them come from poor households. All have lost one or both parents, usually to AIDS. Many have been rejected as unwanted by their families.
Yet coming to Grace has transformed their outlook. Not only are they receiving some of the highest-quality education in this country, but they are in a community which loves them and cares for their practical, emotional and spiritual needs. They are exceptionally well-behaved children, but sharing playtime with them demonstrates that they have a sense of mischief which is strong but gentle.
Grace follows the official government curriculum for schools and constantly receives the highest marks in official assessments. This year will see the graduation of the first group of pupils who have completed their schooling at Grace. Results from their final exams, due in January, are expected to be excellent.
At playtime, I asked children who had just sat a practice exam in physics whether they had found it hard. Some thought it was quite hard. The most common response is, “That was good. I really enjoyed it!” Even those who found it hard are confident they have passed.
If the January results are as good as expected, this will prompt an even bigger demand for places. Already parents from 400km away are applying for the limited number of boarding places.
Plans are in hand to build more teaching accommodation to double the number of pupils from its present 500.
Not all the children are AIDS orphans. Indistinguishable from the others are royal princes and princesses – the children of King Mabhoko III of the Ndebele.
WorldShare has been assisting Grace School since its opening in 2003. You can sponsor a child at Grace School – click here for information.
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