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Diepsloot school's growth echoes township

Thizwilondi Reaneth Ravela was one of the first teachers at Muzomuhle Primary School.
Thizwilondi Reaneth Ravela was one of the first teachers at Muzomuhle Primary School.

Over the years, Diepsloot has been characterised by violence, poverty, xenophobic attacks and overcrowding.

But not all has been doom and gloom in the township.

One of its shining beacons has been Muzomuhle Primary School which was opened in 1996, a year after residents settled in the area.

With nothing but three shipping containers, five residents decided to look forward to the future by shaping the minds of children in the area.

Thizwilondi Reaneth Ravela, 56, is a teacher who has worked at Muzomuhle, the first school in the area, since its establishment.

Ravela spoke with pride as she overlooked a school that grew from a roll of 140 pupils to 2,000 currently.

Ravela has played an integral role in her community and has assumed the role of being a mother to the pupils she has taught in a career that spans 24 years.

"Most of the learners were initially older because they were from farms in the surrounding areas and had never seen the inside of a classroom," she said.

"We had three containers, one of them was used for learners in grade 1 and the other for grade 2 learners, the third was for learners in grade 3 to 7. I would have to turn around to teach a group of grade 4 learners, then turn around to face grade 5 learners, and so forth," she said.

Ravela said the school grew gradually as the population increased, and they were forced to conduct lessons under trees before receiving 20 more containers which enabled them to conduct lessons in a more comfortable environment.

"Before those containers were donated, we also received chairs and tents from local churches," she said.

Now the school boasts enough classrooms to cater for its 2,000 pupils. It has a library, a computer centre, offices, staff room, a laboratory and a tuck shop.

The township has also seen growth as five other primary schools have been built, while two private primary schools and four high schools have been established.

"It's been wonderful to be a part of this community and watching it grow. Parents in this area have invested in their children's education. I have been fortunate to see it all unfolding before my eyes," Ravela said.

Young people in the area have, however, lamented "the slow rate" at which development has taken place in the township. They said more needs to be done to alleviate their situation.

Trapped in a cycle of unemployment, teenage pregnancy and crime, Bongani Mthimkhulu, 24, said the government needed to intervene.

"People my age are either dying because of the lifestyles they live - being involved in crime - because they don't have jobs.

"We agree there are facilities to help us, but we don't have opportunities for anything else," Mthimkhulu said.

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