Ntsika: The PillarDirector:
Ntsika: The Pillar explores what it takes to bridge the divisions of race and class in South Africa today. The film follows a white principle from a privileged school as she crosses the tracks and takes on her first year at Ntsika Secondary, a township school in Grahamstown.
This is a film about an incredible school principal who makes a decision to leave her comfortable world and move down the road, to the other side of town. Madeleine Schoeman had been a trailblazer, running an award winning school for eight years, the only female principal in Grahamstown.
Now in her fifties, she announces that she is giving it all up and becoming the principal of a struggling township school down the road. The whole town is talking about it, why someone like her would want to do this, and many predict she is setting herself up for failure.
We would like you to imagine the rest of the film, where we meet a range of children and spend a year with them, going into their homes and talking to their parents as well, which we then intercut with Madeleine’s efforts to run the school and inspire those around her.
Wandile Katu is the head boy, who is a top science student, and hoping to study pharmacy at university. But, despite him being the top science student,
Madeleine is not sure he is going to get enough points to make it into a university. So through the stories of students like Katu, we shine a spotlight too on the real significant numbers, which for us is not the pass rates, but the amount of students who qualify for entry into university.
So we’ll see what happens to Katu and the two other learners, over the course of the next year 2012. Whether Madeleine fails or succeeds will open up a new debate about the state of education in South Africa.
About the director
Alette Schoon is a filmmaker and she has produced documentaries on education in South Africa. Her 52 minute film Colouring in Our Classrooms broadcast on Special Assignment, followed children who were 7 years old when schools in South Africa deracialised, revisiting them again when they were 14 years old.
She was series director for the SABC television programme Education Express, which focused on teacher development. Her films have been shown during prime time on the national broadcaster, and have travelled to international film festivals such as the INPUT festival and Moscow at the Perspectiva film festival.
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