Friday, February 22, 2008



Read the following passage and answer the questions that follow.

8 year-olds for sale!
By Melinda Ferguson

1. “I was eight years when I started working on the streets. My mother had cancer. I knew if I sold sex, I’d get money and maybe I could save her. My father knew what I was doing, but he didn’t complain – in fact, I think he was happy when I brought the money home,” recalls S'thandiwe*, now 17, who’s been off the streets since she was rescued at the age of 12 from the degradation of whoring in the alleys of Diepsloot.

2. “My friends at school gave me the idea, and I’d watched my older sisters doing it. I went one night with my friend, who was older than I. She flagged down a car at the petrol station. There was a White man. I knew nothing yet of what was to happen that night. So we went to his house in Fourways…he gave us cigarettes and dagga, and he took my friend into a room…”

3. In November 2004, headlines blazed across the country: “School girls rescued from sex dungeon”; “Girls freed from SA prostitution”; “Child sex ring crack-down”. Police infiltrated several child prostitution syndicates, rescuing girls as young as 10 from lives of captivity and abuse. The lid was off the seething, sordid pot of prostitution in our country.

4. S’thandiwe’s life was to change forever. While other girls her age giggled together about pop stars, boyfriends and clothes, she entered a spiral of destruction, hawking her body to strangers to support her father and ailing mother. “He had sex with me,” she recalls of the first night with a client. “It was very sore and I bled. He gave me R50, which was a lot of money to me. I went home and brought my mother Panado…” And so S’thandiwe’s life as a prostitute began. She found herself more and more on the streets. She hardly went to school…she was lost. She was trying to make more money because they were poor and they always needed things.

5. S’thandiwe seemed to have fallen between the cracks of a society that cares little for desperate youngsters. Luckily though, there was at least one pair of eyes that had noticed her. Nurse Baloyi, who is now retired, but worked for years with destitute children in crisis, had become aware of S’thandiwe’s activities, watching helplessly as the girl sold her body – and soul. She used to take food parcels to the poor in that area, so they started taking food to S’thandiwe’s family too, hoping it would make their lives better.

6. Then Social Welfare interceded: they placed the girls in temporary care to get them off the streets. But the family objected and said they’d starve if their daughters didn’t earn money. Nurse Baloyi sat down with S’thandiwe one day, told her how she was ruining her life and asked her if she could take her to a safe place. She agreed, and that’s how she ended up staying at Thabisile's home. Sister Thabisile e Msezani runs a Sithabile, a home for orphaned, abandoned and abused children on a small holding in Benoni, Gauteng, where she cares for over 150 youngsters.

7. Child prostitution has become a very big problem in this country. Other young girls may get involved in prostitution for various reasons: they may be orphaned, or perhaps their parents have sent them onto the streets because they are so desperate and have no other source of income. Another reason it’s so difficult to stop is because the child receives rewards for the act and the parents benefit financially, so the girls are often reluctant to speak out. For child prostitution, the dangers of infection are immense. Children are vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases because it’s hard for them to tell men to wear condoms. They have no skills of assertion and are dismissed as kids with no voice or rights.

8. S’thandiwe's life has changed a lot since those days in Diepsloot. When she met Thanbisile, she became free. She went back to school and began to study. Today, she works with other young women on a campaign called YECSEC (Youth Ending Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children) to spread the message in communities through dramatizing child prostitution. They try to teach them skills to prevent them from entering this way of life. “We tell them: ‘Never listen to your friends or people who try to make you do things you don’t want to do, or that will hurt you. Study hard, stay focused, and you can have a wonderful future – like I have today.”

*Not her real name
Adapted from True Love, February 2005


1.1 What influences did S'thandiwe get from her schoolmates? (2)

1.2 Explain in your OWN WORDS what the phrase “flagged down a car” (paragraph 2) means in the context of the passage (2)

1.3 State whether the following statement is TRUE or FALSE and quote FIVE CONSECUTIVE WORDS to prove your answer:

The public was informed of child prostitution through the media (2)

1.4 Quote ONE word from paragraph 3 which underlines that child prostitution is a filthy, mean practice. (1)

1.5 Explain in your OWN WORDS what made S'thandiwe join prostitution. (3)

1.6 Why did she bleed after having sex with the White man? (2)

1.7 What would other girls of S'thandiwe’s age talk about when they meet? (2)

1.8 How did S'thandiwe spend the money she got from the White man? (2)

1.9 Indicate whether the following statement is TRUE or FALSE and quote FOUR CONSECUTIVE WORDS to prove your answer:

S'thandiwe’s performance at school dropped (3)

1.10 In your OWN WORDS, explain how nurse Baloyi became aware of S'thandiwe’s filthy way of life. (2)

1.11 What did she try to do and stop S'thandiwe from her way of life? (2)

1.12 Give ONE word from paragraph 6 which proves that S'thandiwe’s family opposed the social worker’s offer (1)

1.13 List THREE reasons why young girls may get involved with prostitution (3)

1.14 Why are young prostitutes exposed to sexually transmitted diseases? (2)

1.15 How do S'thandiwe and her group deliver other children from prostitution and its dangers? (1)

1.16 Suggest a reason why the name was changed in this article. (2)



The above test was handed to me today by one of the Senior English teachers to be given to my year elevens next week. We are less than one month from half term, by which point we are supposed to have 100 marks for them. This comprehension test she said, would be a good way to see where they were at, and get us some marks. O-kay. Glanced over it and based on its sheer length, said that I would have to wait until next week so they could have a double period to complete it. She said that one hour would suffice and more than that was too much. Another look over the test raised some serious red flags to that, but decided to figure it out for myself.

As it was on three pages and very shoddily photocopied, I decided to retype it so that it could fit on two pages and be clearer. In doing so, I was floored. In paragraph one and three alone, there were at least 9 words that I knew the majority of my students would not understand. Reading through the entire piece gave me a number of 24.


24 words that I was pretty sure they wouldn’t understand, let alone be able to interpret in the context of the text, nevermind answer questions about them. 20 questions? (what you see above is the copy that I retyped where I have deleted 4 of them in the copy I am to use because I find them to be unquestionably too difficult). And this is all supposed to happen in what was it – one hour? It’s preposterous.

Forget about the content, which given the context in which we find ourselves, is indeed relevant, but the volume of information, the analytical and critical reasoning skills required to answer the questions posed definitely requires – at very least – a solid grasp of the language used, no?

And this is not a criticism of the teacher who gave me the test – am sure she was given it by someone, or most likely it comes from set curricula – but rather a testament to what has and continues to be my main frustration during my time here. The severe and heartbreaking disadvantage that my students find themselves at with English. Math and to a similar although lesser degree Science, these speak a Universal language, with concepts and absolute truths that students do not learn until they come to school, and so they learn them for the first time in English. But the language itself. Which they learn as a second language and hear little of in their communities but are expected to master at a level comparable to their native English-speaking privileged counterparts. And it wouldn’t be so maddening if I felt like they were at least given a fighting chance. But this test is just another example. And so the question then lies to me - What does one do? Carry on teaching and those (few) that can keep up while the rest (most) fall by the wayside?

I don’t know. Seriously don’t have the answer at this point. We have a departmental meeting today after work. Maybe one of my colleagues might have some insight.


The meeting has been postponed until Monday. Argh.

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