Ntsika: The Pillar


Alette Schoon


Development support

Went to Good Pitch


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.

Long Synopsis

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.