PROGRESS ON BUILDING AT MNAMTHA SCHOOL, KWA-ZULU NATAL, SOUTH AFRICA…
After the Blessing of the Mnamatha School building last month, building of the toilets and classrooms quickly got underway – great excitement ensued a little frustration as builders faced problems not unusual to projects in rural South African Townships. This, however, did not deter builders and the Clarks, Soul Of Africa Mnamatha Project is fully underway.
The Clarks Kicking for Soul Of Africa Campaign over the World Cup Period has enabled Soul Of Africa to bring a positive change to this little school in Botha’s Hill, Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa where the HIV / AIDS pandemic is waging war. Clarks donated 50p on their children’s training shoe brand called CICA, to Soul Of Africa for the specific use on the Mnamatha School Project. The total amount raised throughout the duration of the campaign has been an incredible R580 000.00 (£50,000.00). This money is being used to build a new toilet block for the children who (all 441 of them) are sharing 6 noxious portable toilets (see Clarks Kicks for Soul Of Africa World Cup Campaign Huge Success Press release on www.soulofafricacharity.org); 2 staff toilets, a new classroom and a brand new computer room.
The first hurdle builders faced was NO water! Someone in the community thought it was a rather good idea to tap into the schools water system and divert the water from the school to their home instead of having to pay for water. The local council has been very supportive and the problem should be rectified by this week.
The new classroom and computer room were going to be built onto the existing classroom structures, but when the foundations to the existing classrooms were checked - there weren’t any! Nothing deters the Mnamatha Builders (who are part of the community), so, an extra two walls have been built, and both of the classrooms will be free-standing units.
Despite the hurdles faced, the energy at Mnamatha is unmistakable, and excitement grows on a daily basis, as Patrick (Mnamatha’s Headmaster), staff, pupils and Soul Of Africa watch the building progress that is going to make such a big difference in these children’s lives.
More information about the Mnamatha, Clarks Project can be found online at hyperlink http://www.soulofafricacharity.org
Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something…. Author unknown
Clarks Kicks for Soul of Africa World Cup a Huge Success Part 3
By now I’ve created quite a stir and have a small group of children all wanting to tell me just how much of a difference Clarks are making in their lives. Patrick tells them that its time to go back into class but I stop him and ask if I could chat to just a few more of the children. Patrick agrees but gives the children a stern look. “You should be in class learning but I suppose this is a special occasion,” he says.
Lanky and tall, Sanele Ndlovu, aged 14 tells me in broken English that he lives with his mum and two brothers aged 16 and 18. Sanele’s big dark eyes are shy yet filled with determination. “There are too many kids and too few toilets so I’m very happy to have new ones. The old ones smell really bad and I don’t like to go to them,’ says Sanele, “I am excited about the new classroom and computer room as I will be able to do projects on new computers which will help me become a teacher when I grow up”. There are currently 58 children in Sanele’s classroom.
Below: Sanele Ndlovu
Londeka Mthiyane, aged 13 lives with her mum, 3 sisters and 3 brothers. Patrick tells me that Londeka has the potential to go far as she is such a diligent student. “I don’t like the old toilets as the smell and are dirty. Dirty children don’t flush them properly and there are no taps to wash your hands. I’m very happy to have new toilets,” Londeka tells me. “A new classroom will mean more space and less kids in one class so more time learning with the teacher”, says Londeka, “and I feel glad that we will have a computer room as I can have more knowledge than I have as it will help me find out more information.” Pulling her shoulders back, Londeka proudly says, “I want to be a nurse when I leave school and learning computer will help me get a job. I want to help people as lots of people are sick and with disease”. Londeka currently has 63 children in her classroom.
Below: Londeka Mthiyane
I hear Patrick bellow from behind me, “Right children! Back to class – you need to be learning!” But Ntombenhle Cibane has her feet firmly plated in the dusty ground and she’s determined that she’s not going back to class until she tells me her story. I smile at Patrick’s defeated look as this feisty little girl with the huge smile starts telling me how grateful she is to Clarks and Soul Of Africa for giving them what they need most. Aged 12, Ntombenhle lives with her mum, 1 sister and 2 brothers. Her mum is unemployed and it is left up to Ntombenhle’s brother to provide for the family. She proudly tells me that her big brother buys her school uniform for her. Again a fleeting look of sadness passes through Ntombenhle’s eyes as she tells me she doesn’t know who her dad is. This doesn’t last long and that big smile is back as I quickly change the subject by asking about the new toilet block. “I am feeling so excited about new toilets because children write graffiti on the old ones and they smell really bad and make me feel dirty.” On the new computer room Ntombenhle says, ”I am happy for a new classroom as I don’t like to be squashed in class. There is too much noise. Some kids don’t want to learn so make a lot of noise and trouble so the teacher has to deal with them. If we have a smaller class we can learn more.” Ntombenhle currently has 63 children in her classroom.
Below: Ntombenhle Cibane
Below: Handover. Patrick, Stephanie Keast (Soul Of Africa General Manager) with pupils
I watch silently as Father Madlala blesses the ground with holy water, and as we bow our heads in prayer I find my eyes fill with tears and I say thanks… thanks to Clarks for the difference they are helping us make… thanks… that I am blessed enough to be part of the Soul Of Africa project… to be given such an enormously wonderful opportunity to be able to bring change into the lives of children who have nothing not even the simple things in life…
“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” Buddha
Clarks Kicks for Soul of Africa World Cup a Huge Success part 2
Next Patrick takes me to the proposed site for the new computer room that we’ll be building thanks to Clarks. “We are a Primary School with a High School next to us. The High school has computers and when our children get there they are totally unprepared as most of them will never have turned a computer on before. Some other primary schools in the area who join to the same High School will have a few computers so they have experience but our kids are left behind before they start,” says Patrick.
Housing 25 computer work stations, most of which have already been donated by a local bank, the computer room will help take this school to another level. Unemployment in South Africa is rampant and these children need all the help they can get to prevent set backs later on in life.
Below: Proposed site for new computer room
“We will get a new computer person to come in and help teach the children, they will be able to teach other subjects so we will be able to “kill 2 stones with one bird!” I have the hugest smile on my face but don’t have the heart to correct Patrick’s mistake. “I have already been talking to the local resource center so we can set up training courses,” he says. “We will also allow the community to come in between 1.30 and 3.30pm so they can also benefit as the resource center will hold computer courses for older learners.” As Patrick grins and puffs out his chest he says, “This will help all the children go further in life and allow them a better chance to get a job when they leave. I feel so proud.”
Below: Patrick and pupils shouting their hello’s and thanks to all at Clarks.
The bell sounds end of lunchtime and as the children are trundling back to their classrooms, Patrick stops 13 year old pupil Purity Slungile and asks her in Zulu to tell me just how much the changes thanks to Clarks and Soul Of Africa, are going to be bringing to her life. A tall girl with a shy smile Purity tells me in English that the old toilets are terrible and that she feels very happy to be having new ones. “A new computer room means a lot to me as it means I can learn and get a better job when I leave school. If I have a better job I can help my family to buy food and clothes.” There are currently 63 children in Purity’s classroom. “A new class room will mean we will have not so many children in one class so we can learn better and hear the teacher.” When I ask about her family, I note a fleeting sadness in Purity’s eyes, “I live with my grandmother,” she says, “My dad died and my mum ran away. I have a sister who is 18 and two brothers who are 15 and 13.”
Below: Purity Slungile
Clarks Kicks for Soul Of Africa World Cup a Huge Success PART 1
As I’m driving down toward the valley of Ndedwe, situated in Botha’s Hill, Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa, I’m struck by the breathtaking landscape as the sun rises, streaking the sky and valley below with life and colour. Who would think that deep in the heart of this picturesque setting, lies a little school called Mnamatha, that is filled with children who are hungry for education, yet face so many stumbling blocks along the way. As I drive through the school gate, my heart is filled with such joy as I watch Patrick Hlongwane’s (Mnamatha’s Headmaster) broad smile spread across his happy face as he rushes toward my car. “I owe Dee my life for finding Soul of Africa and Clarks… what they have done will make the difference to the lives of many, many children for years to come,” Patrick says grinning. “We can’t say thank you enough!!!” says Pearl (the school librarian), jumping up and down with excitement.
Below: Patrick Hlongwane, aged 51, Mnamatha’s Headmaster
You see, it is thanks to the Clarks Kicking for Soul Of Africa Campaign over the World Cup Period that has enabled Soul Of Africa to bring a positive change to this little school. Clarks have donated 50p on their children’s training shoe brand called CICA, to Soul Of Africa for the specific use on the Mnamatha School Project. The total amount raised throughout the duration of the campaign has been an incredible R580 000.00 (£50,000.00).
Armed with my camera and notebook, we walk past the overcrowded classrooms toward the existing toilet block. I note that this is a happy school. A school where there are on average 50 children packed into each classroom per grade – yet they are happy and want to learn. Although faced with many hardships over the years, the teachers and pupils alike smile broadly through broken windows and wave as I walk past. There is an energy around me that lifts me up and makes me remember a saying by Christopher Reeve, “Once you choose hope… Anything is possible!” Thanks to Clarks we are able to make the changes to Mnamatha possible!
Mnamatha school has 441 children (junior and senior primary), 137 of these children are orphans losing their parents to the vicious AIDS pandemic in South Africa. 11 of these children are from child headed households. The number of AIDS orphans thrust into parenthood is soaring in Kwa-Zulu Natal, the hardest hit province in South Africa, long the hardest-hit nation in the world.
As we near the existing toilet block the air is filled with the unmistakable stench of rotting human waste. I find myself wanting to wretch while thinking how on earth it could be possible for these little ones (all 441 of them) to share 6 noxious portable toilets. Not to mention the health hazards! These toilets have clearly not been emptied in ages. Stricken, Patrick tells me that these toilets have not been emptied in a very long time as the council has had no money to do so.
Says Patrick, ““We have applied for a toilet block from the government in 2001 and they said that they would put them in but we are still waiting… 6 years later. The local department hire's 6 portable toilets which they are supposed to come every Friday to service but sometimes they don’t come and we have to wait 2 weeks for them to be emptied. They are a terrible health and safety hazard to the kids as they are dirty and they smell. The little ones can’t even reach the seats and the bigger kids don’t like to go in them so they go in the bush behind. They don’t have water so they cant wash their hands afterwards. Some kids will go home at break to go to the toilet rather than use the ones we have now and then they don’t always come back to school afterwards.”
I get my urge to empty my stomach contents onto the floor under control while silently saying prayers of thanks to Clarks over and over again. You see, thanks to the Clarks / CICA campaign we are able to build a brand new toilet block (2 x 6 toilets) one for boys and one for girls as well as 2 staff toilets for teachers. “The new block will be so much better and safer for the children”, says Patrick, “We will have running water and monitors from each year group to make sure they are kept in a nice condition. Also the staff will have their own toilets which will be better.”
Below: Current toilet block
Below: Proposed site for new toilet block
I breathe a huge sigh of desperate relief as Patrick steers me away from the stench of the toilets toward where the new classroom is going to be built.
Below: Proposed site for new classroom
“We are so short of space right now that the classes are over flowing with children,” says Patrick. “A new classroom will let us take smaller groups that need more attention away from the big groups so each learner will have more teacher time. Also when we have community meeting with the parents then we will have the space to meet properly instead of squashing into one classroom.” Looking down at the hard dirt ground Patrick tells me that having no play area, only dirt and dust areas, “I would like to maybe also put some chess sets and a basketball hoop in the new classroom so the kids have something to do at break times.” Just then someone sounds the old fashioned school bell and I watch as children spill out of their classrooms into the tiny, dusty ‘play area’ for break time. I watch as the older boys and girls stand around in groups talking and laughing while the younger children with boundless energy run around causing a mini dust-storm around everyone. I feel my heart tug as I imagine what a difference a grass patch and a soccer ball or two to kick around will make to lunchtime for these children. Simple things… simple things that you and I take for granted…
Below: From left to right: Lunchtime queue for pre-school children to use the toilet.
Washing hands in dripping rainwater caught in the Jo-Jo tank from a pipe leading off gutter of a classroom roof into the tank. This is the only means for the children to wash their hands. If there is no rain they cannot wash their hands. There is one tap on the school property, which is only used for drinking water for the children. Crowded dusty play area during breaktime.
South Africa’s jobless rate rose unexpectedly to a five-year peak in the first quarter. Officials blame this on seasonal factors and the end of the World Cup preparations.
The official unemployment rate climbed to 25,2% from 24,3% in the final quarter of last year, despite the economy's recovery, Statistics SA said yesterday. (Business Day 5 May 2010)
Soul Of Africa, is providing a long-term solution to unemployment, by creating self-sustainable employment – employment that is permanent – in South Africa.
Soul Of Africa creates self-sustainable employment for previously unemployed women in South Africa. These women are trained to hand-stitch products which in turn lead to the transferral of skills, giving them the self empowering ability to look after their families and provide essential healthcare.
Soul Of Africa is a non-profit charity organization, and, although profit is made, it is all donated back toward the care and upkeep of orphans and vulnerable children affected by AIDS in South Africa. To date Soul Of Africa has raised over R10million which has all been ploughed back into South African communities.
Unemployment increased by 145000 to 4,3-million, which means that one in four of SA's workforce of 12,8-million is without a job. When discouraged job seekers, those who have given up looking for work, are included, SA's jobless rate rose to 35,4% from 34,2% in last year's fourth quarter. That would take the number of unemployed people to a staggering 6,1-million, or a third of the workforce.
"These figures are very disappointing," said Stanlib economist Kevin Lings. "I would describe SA's unemployment rate as a crisis, which contributes massively to social unrest."
The Congress of South African Trade Unions said it was "shocked" at the figures, which showed that where workers were concerned the country was still grappling with recession.
Brait economist Colen Garrow said that although President Jacob Zuma 's government was taking the right steps to create jobs, it would be a decade before the real benefits were reaped. (Business Day 5 May 2010)
Says Sarah Gedye, co-founder of Soul Of Africa and owner of local footwear manufacturer Froggie Shoes, “It’s no use creating temporary employment, it’s a quick fix that doesn’t last. The solution to the unemployment crisis in South Africa is to creating self-sustainable employment and that’s exactly what Soul Of Africa successfully strives to do.”
The Soul Of Africa hand-stitchers are earning double the average urban income in South Africa which is approximately R1,340.00 per month, earned by domestic workers. They are able to support and provide for their families, earning R2,604.00 per month by hand stitching Soul Of Africa products such as genuine leather shoes, t-shirts, footballs and notebooks. Soul Of Africa products are sold in South Africa as well as international retailers such as Clarks and NEXT.
42-year-old Octavia Msani who has been struggling to raise her three children as well as two of a sister who died of ADS says, “Thanks to the Soul Of Africa project, I can now make my way in life.” “I’m feeling happy because the shoes make our lives more possible, now I know that if I die from AIDS my children will have good care and a good education,” says another of the stitchers.
Soul Of Africa ARE changing lives in Africa without expecting a hand out, their passion and commitment are instrumental in ensuring their projects constant progression and success – Soul Of Africa is working!
More information about Soul Of Africa can be found online at hyperlink http://www.soulofafricacharity.org
or contact Leigh on 082 337 0400 or Sarah on 031 450 0200
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