Children should be at school, not the movies

It is 8.30am on Tuesday and downtown Market Street in Johannesburg is awash with human bodies and the din of blaring hooters amid the peak hour rush.

But on one of the city's busiest streets is an unwanted group, people who are not meant to be there at that time of the morning.

Dressed in a variety of school uniforms, pupils gravitate towards a landmark of Johannesburg, the old Good Hope Cinema.

It is around Good Hope that I decide to blend with this mass of humanity. But I cannot lose focus as I am drawn to these motley crowd in uniform like bees to honey.

No, they are not headless chickens for they know where they are going. Their destination is Good Hope. I follow them.

They are about 150 or even 200 as they mass outside the cinema.

Others are dressed in civvies while many changed their uniforms to look snazzy. Some change into their civvies right there in front of the cinema.

I was taken aback and not aware that they are about to indulge in what has become their favourite pastime, watching movies.

They chatted, laughed and smoked nonchalantly without any care in the world.

When the cinema opened just before 10am they all surged towards the door in groups and in pairs and disappeared inside the building.

A ticket costs R5 for two movies. I paid and took a seat next to a casually, but fashionably dressed man. It appeared he was a regular patron at that time.

I was sitting at the edge of the aisle when a boy and a girl, aged about 16, entered. They were wearing identical uniforms, with the boy's hand tucked in the girl's grey slacks, almost touching her buttocks. That seemed to have tickled her fancy as she giggled encouragingly.

Then Nostradamus: Prophet of Doom, an action movie, started.

Just then another boy entered. He had a Heineken lager in his hand. He too was wearing a school uniform.

The scene had been similar in the two weeks that I kept vigil at Good Hope. During that period I chose not to ask questions, but just observe and listen.

And here is a typical conversation of a group of girls who were sharing a cigarette. They also were wearing their uniforms.

Girl 1: "I wonder where is Ntombi."

Girl 2: "She is probably at school."

Girl 3: "There is no way that she is there. She said she would be here no matter what."

Girl 1: "Okay, we will see. Last week she said she was coming but ended up somewhere else."

Girl 3: "Maybe she is with her boyfriend." She then blew out a cloud of smoke.

"This happens every Tuesday. Today is actually better because there is no age-restricted movie," said Corina Khuto who works at a shop nearby.