Film highlights struggle of rural pupils

A scene from the documentary film ‘eCwecweni’ shown at the Makhanda Film Festival
A scene from the documentary film ‘eCwecweni’ shown at the Makhanda Film Festival    
Image: Supplied

A newly introduced subcategory of the virtual National Arts Festival, the Makhanda Film Festival, is providing a developmental platform for filmmakers.

The film festival’s inaugural theme is “Once Upon a Time” and features nine short films and documentaries, a series of masterclasses and panel discussions.      

One of the documentaries, eCwecweni — Free But Not Equal, highlights inequalities within the education system, with a focus on struggles faced by pupils of Cwecweni Senior Secondary School in Ngcobo.

The film, by Rhodes University graduates Sipho Monakali and Bongeka Gumede, highlights the impact of issues such as a lack of infrastructure, overcrowding and a lack of transportation and how this affects the future of children in underdeveloped areas.

Monakali, who also attended a rural school similar to Cwecweni, said they had hoped the documentary would catch the attention of people who are in a position to help the school and many others in the same position across the Eastern Cape.

“When I moved from Ngcobo, I was able to see how advanced schools in other areas were as compared to where I came from.

“That influenced my decision to make a documentary based on the education system for my Master’s project at Rhodes University and eCwecweni — Free But Not Equal was conceptualised,” Monakali said.

While shooting the documentary, Monakali said, he could see the potential of pupils.

“We can’t be waiting for the government’s services anymore because they have failed to deliver on many of their promises, so it’s better to highlight and seek solutions to these issues ourselves.” 

Gumede, who attended a developed school, said she had been compelled by the story as it was a reality of many others around her.

“Though I went to what can be regarded as a Model C school, it’s not difficult to empathise with a story like this because it is a human issue and it is concerning that conditions that our parents faced 15 to 20 years ago are still present in 2020,” Gumede said.

The co-producers said this was their debut film.

“I hope that this documentary opens our eyes to the realities of these provinces whose schools produce low matric pass rates when the minister of basic education announces results every year.

“I hope that people who have the capacity and the means  to help do reach out and help,” Gumede said.

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