A Day in the Life of the SKRUM Coaches During Lockdown
Our day starts at 8am when we arrive at the office situated just outside the town of Malkerns. It begins with coffee and a meeting to discuss plans for the day and a phone call to the school’s head teacher to confirm our visit. Whilst schools have been closed due to Covid, we have been painting Sipho (SKRUM’s logo) at schools across the Kingdom to increase awareness of our working fighting HIV/AIDS.
Today we are painting at Mahlangatsha Primary, a remote school in the mountains. The weather has been particularly stormy so we check the report on ‘Accuweather’ before setting off to make sure the weather in the area will be fair for painting. Today it looks ok, so we are good to go.
The two SKRUM Coaches take it in turns to check over the Mahindra, the SKRUM truck, including oil, water and tyres, to ensure it is fit for the journey ahead. The second coach loads the truck with all the equipment needed to paint. Once loaded, the Mahindra is double checked to make sure we have everything we need to paint. To drive one and a half hours to a school and find something is left behind, would not be good. Then it is a final check for the items we need in the vehicle – masks, sanitiser, First Aid box and finally we are on the road.
As we drive through Malkerns we meet out first Police road block, set up during the pandemic to check for masks and take the temperature of everyone in the vehicle. There’s an E100.00 (around £5) fine if you do not have a mask. We are well prepared so pass the checks and we drive on. Through Luyengo and onto Mhlabobovu, where we meet the second Police road block. Again, masks and temperature are checked and they also ask to see Emelda’s driving licence and check over the Mahindra. Again we are prepared, all is good and we drive up into the mountains to Mankayane.
Through Mankayane and we have the third Police road block. Temperature, masks, driving licence and “Where are you going?”. We sail through this road block and after another fifteen minutes we turn left leaving the comfort of the tar road and hit the dirt. There’s been heavy rains every day for the past three weeks, so the generally bad dirt roads are now so much worse. A very steady drive, averaging only 20km per hour, dodging potholes, dongas (gullies), boulders, goats and cows, takes us to our destination.
Along the way we pass children who recognise the car and shout “SKRUUUM” and sing the SKRUM song ‘Pass the Ball, not the Virus’ (Phasa le Bhola hhayi Leligciwane). It’s heart-warming to know they remember the vital messages from our sessions. We arrive at Mahlangatsha Primary and call the Head Teacher to enquire where we might find the person with the key to open the school gate. This could take some time! Once the gate is open, the wall where we are to paint Sipho is identified and a perimeter set up around the area using chevron tape. Even with the school closed we get a lot of spectators as very few NGOs visit the remote schools. So, a four-metre area is taped off to ensure social distancing. You cannot be too careful. A Sipho takes around four hours to paint, depending on the weather.
Outside of lockdown, we would paint a Sipho in the morning and hold SKRUM Training and Classroom Sessions in the afternoon. However today we can only talk to the Head Teacher about their concerns for the pupils during lockdown and how we can help address them. Today we discuss increasing rates of teenage pregnancy, forced child labour and substance abuse. The Head is particularly keen to prioritise our Female Empowerment training session, Umbhoco weNgabisai so we schedule a visit to return for classroom sessions once the children are back. We leave HIV/AIDS awareness posters to be displayed in the school and community.
With the Sipho finished, the Mahindra is packed and we make the loooong drive home, passing through the road blocks with good humour. We are happy to be on the road again so this has been a good day for SKRUM.
Cheila and Emelda
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