On Monday the 9th of November, The Compass Trust went into Levana Primary as normal. I went to set up the cones and equipment for the first of 4 PE classes scheduled for that day.
At 08:00, I took my first class of Grade 4’s. None older than 11 years old.
As the end of class approached, I looked out onto the streets of Lavender Hill and all seemed very quiet. Nothing too unusual for a Monday morning. However, this wasn’t a usual Monday.
2 men were wondering the street, donned with caps, hoodies and backpacks, crouching and looking around as if looking for something, or someone. Suddenly, out of nowhere a white car appeared and drove passed the school. The sounds of the doors opening and then being slammed shut were audible as the car disappeared behind the school building.
I started to walk the children back to class. As they were lined up ready to enter their classroom…Pop…pop…pop. Pop, pop, pop pop. I looked around me, the children and the teachers knew exactly what that noise was. Gunshots.
Children started running, around corners, in their classrooms, behind walls. Teachers were beckoning everyone to get inside. There was the odd scream here and there.
The same thing happened on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, at nearly the same time, as though it was scheduled.
After each shooting, PE was cancelled for the day to ensure the safety of the students.
Each morning I took out my first class, only to be greeted with gunshots at the end of the period.
Each day, teachers would look at me with a look of resignation. Not fear. Not scared. Resigned. As if to say, “Not again…” Resigned to the fact that this is the community they live and teach in. Their look was almost apologetic. “I’m sorry about this Matthew”. As though they felt it was their responsibility. Nothing could be further from the truth.
These teachers are heroes. And so are the students.
Lavender Hill is a notoriously dangerous township. Members of one of the gangs are located in housing estates across from the school. Yet each morning, teachers and students alike walk or drive past this estate to get to the school gates.
Many groups and organizations seem to avoid places like Lavender Hill. It is a dangerous area. But these are the areas that need help the most.
Director of Education, Devyn, sat me down on one of the evenings that week with a document prepared outlining the risks of TCT working in Lavender Hill. Not only risks to The Compass Trust but also to our lives and the lives of our volunteers. The message was clear, ‘If we continue to work in Lavender Hill, we can say goodbye to our volunteer program…Not many people will want to volunteer in an area as dangerous as Lavender Hill.’
To a certain extent, she’s right.
But, what next? Do we leave? Find another school that also needs assistance? If we wanted to create the next big volunteer organisation, then that would be the answer.
However, that was never the goal. There are already volunteer organisations in the area. We don’t want to copy them, we want to offer something unique, an effective, sustainable program that will enhance the lives of the children and community.
Our goal is to make the biggest impact possible, to make the biggest difference. By continuing our commitment to Levana Primary and to the Lavender Hill community, I believe we are making a statement. We are not scared to help those in need.
We have now changed our direction.
Always good and love to all,