Elsie Ngidi Primary School gets a new library and resource centre

The above apt observation by Dr Seuss served as the inspiration to what Imperial & Motus Community Trust has been offering by way of education to schools scattered across communities south of Johannesburg.

Literally a stone throw away from where President Cyril Ramaphosa grew up in the Soweto neighbourhood of Chiawelo, well-manicured Elsie Ngidi Primary School is the embodiment of what partnerships with private entities such as Imperial & Motus Community Trust can deliver for the nation’s progress – as espoused in the government’s National Development Plan.

That, demonstrated when the Trust’s executives and associated stakeholders descended on the school on the eve of Mandela Day – for the handover of a state-of-the-art library and resource centre.  Replete with around the walls shelves stacked with rows of books scented with newness, flashy laptop computers, colourful furniture and manned by a duo of young and accordingly trained librarians – the newest addition to the 1000 plus pupils institution was a heaven-sent, whose principal had the following to say: “We always had an under-resourced makeshift library. 

Yes, yes as miracles do happen, Imperial & Motus Community Trust came into the picture and saw the need to upgrade and completely transform it into this modern library resource centre that will ensure that our learners are part of this Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

The Trust couldn’t had picked a better school than in the form of the host, double-tiered institution, whose values were evidenced in how some of its scholars (with others spotting sashes identifying them by their various designations) dispensed duties such as directing motorists to parking lots, courteously ushering visitors to allotted sits and catering bottled water.

The tone to the day’s proceedings had been set off by a choir (clad in T-shirts of the figure of Nelson Mandela raising a hand in triumph) which gave a nostalgic rendition of the recently deceased Johnny Clegg’s Asimbonanga – and swaying self-indulgently to their beat!   

With Gauteng Department of Education officials present, the afternoon was also punctuated by a succession of speeches delivered by students of varying ages who had benefitted from the Trust’s initiatives – which augment the level of education offered at government schools. 

A provincial spelling champion as well as a well-spoken aero-nautical student with the University of the Witwatersrand gave testimonies of how being products of the programme had been of invaluable assistance to their aspirations.

An overview of the commendable role the Trust has been playing in the academic sector is extensively outlined thus:      

“Giving back is where you give, and then nothing happens. No benefits for you, no recognition, nothing tangible gets sent your way. Your biggest and sole reward is the realization that you’ve made a significant change in someone’s life. And if not ‘significant’ then a positive change nevertheless.”

The Imperial and Ukhamba Community Development Trust is dependent on the generosity of the ‘Unknown Soldier’ to make a lasting difference in the lives of some of the poorest children in the country.

We have increased our footprint in the south of Johannesburg to 30 Libraries impacting on about 35 000 learners and over 1 000 teachers who can use these resources for roughly 250 days of the school year, as our libraries are open daily from 7h15 to 16h00, on some Saturdays and most school holidays, excluding December. The following communities were recipients of libraries in 2017:

Freedom Primary School in Freedom Park (January), Zitha Primary School at Small Farms, Evaton (March), Cavendish Primary School, Eldorado Park (April), Tjhabatsatsi Primary School, Sebokeng (July), Phehello Primary School, Sebokeng and Eldocrest Primary School in Eldorado Park (November).

Reading Programme

The ability to read is an essential skill for students to master because most information is presented in text.  The world over – via web sites, books, magazines and newspapers, including sometimes, pictures for visual reference – the printed text is used to share information with the reader.

The lack of this skill essentially cripples children for life, with no hope of them ever improving their lives, or of accessing higher paying jobs, or advancing the lot of their families and communities for generations to come.

The reading programme which commenced in 2013 at three partner schools, has always attempted to change the status quo.  In 2017, we took the ultimate plunge of getting an outside source – the University of Pretoria’s Education Faculty – to confirm the impact of our initiative.  The pilot was conducted at a school that has been on the reading programme for the past four years and the benchmarking of a school that will receive a library in 2018.

Grade R Upgrades

Researchers have found that while Grade R provides children in middle class and affluent schools some advantage, it makes no measurable difference to children in poorer schools.  This is because these schools often have too few trained teachers, resources or suitable infrastructure to provide an appropriate learning and teaching environment.

With this in mind, and through the generous donations by socially aware companies, we have embarked on a programme to upgrade Grade R classrooms and to provide resources and play areas at needy schools since 2015. 

In 2017, the following upgrades were successfully completed: Langalibalele Primary School Grade R, Orange Farm; Zitha Primary School Grade R, Small Farms, Evaton; Zitha Primary School Grade 00 and Tjabatsatsi Primary School.

Feeding Area Upgrades

According to the United Nations World Food Programme report published in 2017, school feeding programmes contribute to the well-being and education of children. 

While the Department of Social Welfare does a good job of ensuring one or two good meals a day for learners attending school in poor communities, the method used to feed these children results in little or no play time for learners as they queue up for food for almost the entire break.  Through the upgrade of the feeding areas and providing lunch boxes for each child – the meal can be picked up and eaten in the first half of the allocated time.  Learners can socialize and learn from their peers.  The fourth of such upgrades was completed at Letshego Primary in Sebokeng in 2017.

Fun days for both children and adults

Play can have a large impact on development in many areas, including social skills, language skills and cognitive development.  The Trust has continued to ensure that learners experience the joy of structured play through the holiday, Saturday and staff initiatives. 

Each of the activities is planned to ensure both educational and physical benefits to learners of all ages in primary schools.  With the additional benefit of having the staff of our various companies adding the personal touch to each event, the learners are guaranteed a life changing experience.

Learners were awarded with recognitions and gifts for their academic excellence.

Image Jacob MAWELA (Posing inside the new Library and Resource Centre at Elsie Ngidi Primary School in Chiawelo were, Cindy Lukele, Segomotso Makgala, Osman Arbee, Principal Mathibe, Simphiwe Zulu and Lebohang Hlongwane).

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