Getting to school on time is only half the journey
A YOUNG boy's dream to become a civil engineer one day might be shattered if he keeps walking a single trip of more than 7km to school.
Bokang Serite, 11, a Grade 4 pupil at Gareosenye Primary School in Dinokana near Zeerust, lives in Maramage village in North West.
He walks 7km to school - and to get there on time he has to wake up at 4.30am to prepare himself.
The walk takes him nearly two hours.
On rainy days and in winter Bokang does not go to school.
He lives in a two-roomed shack with his unemployed mother.
Sometimes he goes to school on an empty stomach. His father died two years ago.
"I love to go to school but when it rains it becomes difficult for me because I struggle to move in the mud," he said.
He often arrives at school late and tired.
"My teachers know that I arrive late sometimes. They do not punish me because they know I live far away," he said.
"When I arrive at school in the morning I drink water from the school tap to refresh myself because I'm so tired," he said.
He starts classes at 7.15am and finishes at 2pm.
Bokang loves studying. His favourite subject is mathematics and he loves soccer. He hopes to be a qualified civil engineer some day.
On Wednesday morning Sowetan visited Bokang as he prepared himself and accompanied him to school.
His mother Semakaleng poured water in a bathing bowl and he began to wash.
He used a very small piece of soap and asked me to excuse him as he was about to wash his lower body.
His mother meanwhile ironed his school clothes.
"We are suffering but I don't want us to focus on our poverty. I want to see this boy somewhere one day," she said.
He came out of the room dressed, hugged his mother and grabbed his school bag. It was raining.
"We are late already. Other kids are going to laugh at me," he said.
We began the journey without an umbrella.
"You see how bad these roads are? One day I'm going to put a tarred road here and build bridges so that other children can walk easily," he said as we headed for the school.
The ground was sodden. When a car went by it splashed dirty water and mud on us.
We finally arrived at school and Bokang had missed the first lesson. The second lesson was about to start.
He wiped his shoes with a cloth and ran to his class.
Bokang is one of many children from his and other villages in Dinokana who walk a long distance to school.
Early this year, community members at one of the villages, Puaneng, requested intervention from South African Legal Aid to help them re-open Puana primary, a school they said was nearer to their village.
The North West department of education said they would not reopen the school.
Spokesman for the department, Gershwin Chuenyane, said the parents of the concerned children agreed to the merger of the two schools.
"The merger process was started in 2008 and initially involved four primary schools in the Dinokana Village: Puana, Borothamadi, Maramage and Gareosenye. Gareosenye had to serve as host because it had the facilities to accommodate all."
Legal Aid representative Advocate Nzame Skibi said the department of education should at least provide transport for the children.
Chuenyane says the distance from Puana to Gareosenye is not too far and does not warrant the provision of school transport.