Shortly after the new year of 2023, we were introduced to Zanspruit Primary School in Johannesburg, South Africa. Zanspruit is a unique school. Its classrooms exist inside converted shipping containers. Its location is special, situated on delicate wetland where fauna and flora live. Yet, the natural habitat is struggling to survive. The wetland ecosystem is threatened because of sewage runoff, which also affects the students and teachers. They are often sent home because of the unsanitary environment.
We decided to teach a group of Zanspruit students the techniques in storytelling In an effort to help the school raise awareness about these environmental and health issues.
In collaboration with Principal Joshua Mamabolo and Teacher Florah Mashita, we asked ten students in grades 6 and 7 to create stories that express love of their school and why they need adequate water drainage and clean water. Over the course of a month, teacher and students worked together to understand the wetland environment and the delicate balance required for animals and plants to survive. They came to understand how the dirty water seeping up through the school's property is affecting their lives and the nature growing around the school. The students found their voices through words and visual expression to let others know about their substandard conditions.
We captured their stories to help the students affect social change and improve the water conditions at their school so they can receive education without concern for their health and well being.