Bazamile School, Molweni
Nestled deep in the Molweni Valley, rugged hills and towering cliffs rise over the basketball court at Bazamile. Don’t let its remote location fool you, the kids that call this court home are among the most passionate hoopers in all of PPI-South Africa. Though Molweni already had a Leadership Development Programme (LDP) team, it practiced “at the top of the hill”, referring to the area of Molweni that sits on the slopes and ridges overlooking the valley. In an area where walking is generally the only transport available, the players “at the bottom of the hill”, in the valley, found it difficult to attend the LDP sessions. That’s when the players in the valley decided to take matters into their own hands and create their own LDP team. Molweni Area Coordinator Sifiso Mthembu helped the players get their team up and running and volunteered to coach them for the year in addition to performing his normal duties as Area Coordinator. Bazamile is the home court for the “bottom of the hill” LDP team, which fields both a boys and a girls side. The court is also home to Bazamile School’s boys and girls primary school teams. Members of the boys LDP team are featured in the photo above.
Ngongomisa School, Umbumbulu
To get to Umbumbulu, you drive and then you keep driving. A rural community spreading out over the rolling hills southwest of Durban, it is common to arrive at practice here to find half the team munching on sugarcane, which is seemingly in infinite supply in the region. Just as an American kid might twist open a bottle of Gatorade before practice, the kids in Umbumbulu peel off the tough exterior of the cane stalk with their teeth in order to get to the sweet, crunchy, sugary interior. It’s a nice after-school snack as they prepare to take the court for practice or games. Ngongomisa School sits at the end of a dirt road on top of one of the areas many hills. The scenery could attract tourists in droves, but it’s the basketball that brings the students of Ngongomisa to the court. On this particular day, 20+ boys and girls from Ngongomisa participated in a basketball practice that maintained incredible energy and enthusiasm from start to finish, while an additional 10 students watched and cheered their classmates on the court (sugarcane hanging from their mouths, of course). I can’t take my eyes off the views, they can’t take their eyes off the game.
Ndongeni School, Umlazi
Ndongeni is situated in the M section of Umlazi, the biggest township in the Durban area and the 2nd largest in all of South Africa. With a population of over 700,000 people, Umlazi is a far cry from the picturesque landscapes of some of the rural areas in the PPI programme. Life in Umlazi, like many townships, isn’t always easy. High levels of poverty, unemployment, crime, HIV, and drug and alcohol abuse plague many of Umlazi’s communities. Combined with a very limited infrastructure that has only recently begun seeing development, Umlazi can be a difficult place to grow up. PPI’s many basketball courts in Umlazi, including the one pictured above at Ndongeni Primary School, provide a sanctuary for kids from the day-to-day grind of life in the township. Ndongeni is the home court for four PPI teams — the boys and girls teams from the primary school and the Umlazi boys and girls LDP teams (high school). For the LDP teams, practice ends when the sun goes down, but practice always seems to end prematurely in the eyes of the players here. One gets the sense that, if the court had lights, these kids might just play here all night.