University students help rural learners stay in school

DUT students deliver sanitary pads

Photo of school students

Bhekuximba High School learners were pleased with a sanitary pad donation.
Photo: Nompendulo Ngubane

By Nompendulo Ngubane

7 November 2016

Last week, GroundUp accompanied four Durban University of Technology (DUT) students as they set out in the pouring rain from Indumiso campus in Pietermaritzburg for Bhekuximba High School. It is a 55km drive ending in a slippery gravel road that passes many small rondavel homes. The school has a few broken windows.

When the four DUT students arrived at Bhekuximba, learners were eagerly awaiting them. The learners are polite and disciplined and the school was quiet. Learners greeted people respectfully.

Bhekuximba High School was one of the rural schools around Pietermaritzburg that said it urgently needed sanitary towels. There was also a request from Impendle, 75km away, but the students are still trying to raise the funds. 

The schools came to the attention of DUT students through a survey they conducted. They launched a collection and gathered 200 sanitary pads.

Many schools face high rates of absenteeism with girls from grade 10 to grade 12 repeatedly missing classes every month during menstruation because they do not have sanitary towels.

“Parents have no money to buy sanitary pads and girls miss classes. Some of them use old cloths and that don’t last the whole day. It’s a very difficult situation,” said Thanda Ncalane, a teacher . “We know that each month we will have a number of girls absent, and that is because they don’t have sanitary pads. It is a situation that is beyond our control. There is nothing that can be done but we wait for them to be finish their cycle and they come to school when they are done.”

Nkosinathi Phungula, one of the DUT students, said he was touched by the girl’s stories. “It is sad that young girls end up using old cloth during their menstrual cycle … Parents are unable to buy sanitary pads and that is the saddest story.”

“At the moment we are short of sponsors. We don’t need money, but we accept sanitary pads or tampons of any brand from anyone. Bhekuximba High school story touched our hearts and we had to do something about it. As long as young girls are taken away from the embarrassment of having no sanitary pads. Missing classes affect their performance in school and we don’t want that,” said Phungula.

A grade 10 learner Zoleka Dlamini said she won’t be missing any classes for two months since the DUT students assisted them. Dlamini said some of her peers have never used sanitary pads in their lives.

“The better way to save yourself from embarrassment is not to come to school. We are grateful to DUT students for providing us with sanitary pads,” said Dlamini.

Snenhlanhla Nyaniso, a DUT student, said, “I was saddened by a story of a young girl who told me that her grandmother would make her use pieces of material from pillowcases during her period. At the moment we want to lend a helping hand where we can.”

Other students that are part of the campaign are Sphiwe Vilakazi and Nokuphiwa Dladla.

If you wish to help, contact Nkosinathi Phungulu on 071 818 7448 or Snenhlanhla Nyaniso on 060 376 3403.