The worksheet, written in English and handed to her on Monday, was due that Friday.
The task was to build a model solar system using paper maché, newspaper, paint, wire, polystyrene, and balloons.
There also wasn’t enough polystyrene, so the planets had to be mounted on smaller, separate blocks, rather than together on one big block.
The government made sure that schooling was compulsory, provided free textbooks, introduced effective management by local municipalities, and provided maintenance grants for primary schools.
The content of the subjects adhered quite closely to British standards and norms for secondary schooling, with a number of vocational options for those not yet entering secondary school.
According to TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study), a 20-year-old international metric, a third of South African school children tested in 2011 performed worse than if they had guessed the multiple choice answers to questions in mathematics.
In fact, so wide is the gap that the average South African ninth grader scores two to three grade levels lower than the average eighth grade child from other middle-income countries in mathematics and science.
She arrived with a small packet of water balloons at the Learning Center—an afterschool institution in the affordable housing apartment block where she lives—and wondered if the Center could help her complete the task at hand.