We were excited but not sure,” is principal Thamsanqa Msomi’s diplomatic explanation of the emotions felt by Slangspruit Primary School when expat Carolyn Burns arrived out of the blue, offering help.
“We had hope, but also reservations about what was realistic. We wondered: did she have an agenda?” While their caution is understandable, forming partnerships with outside contributors is a route even the government recognises as necessary for schools like Slangspruit to succeed, because the deficit of skills and resources for most South African schools is simply so great.
Msomi comes across as a quiet realist. His no-fee school, which sits on a dusty slope surrounded by a sea of ramshackle houses, serves 980 children, all fed by the government feeding scheme. He’s been there since 1995 because, he says, he wants to make a difference, and clearly he and his staff are doing just that. The school has a feeling of order and endeavour, and in the office, a notice board is covered with inspirational sayings and advice. Nevertheless, their task is huge, with minimal infrastructure and no obvious source of funding. “We don’t have any fundraising events,” he said. “The community is still learning about that. It’s not that easy to raise money.”
Enter Burns, a woman with a mission. Burns is South African ex-pat, who spent many years in Canada before feeling the pull to come home and make a difference. She and Msomi met with teachers and tried to prioritise what the school needed most. The list was daunting—they had no computers, no hall and no library — but they had a vision. “We wanted the pupils not to feel discarded or thrown away,” said Msomi. “We wanted them to be at the same level as children at a Model C school and know about the Internet. We wanted to bring light here.”
Burns set about finding money and people who could offer support in areas where it was needed. Last year, Burns also achieved a goal she’d been working towards for a few years, to build premises for a community centre and office for Ukulapha, the NGO she started to serve the residents of Slangspruit, that would be shared with the school. She’d been trying without success to obtain land from the municipality near the school and after Msomi offered space on the school property, she approached Container World to assist with providing this for her.
Container World took on the project, and was able to supply Ukulapha with a complex of MultiHouse® Containers, delivered and installed on-site. It now houses a library, office and computer centre. A scholarship scheme has also been established that sends the top two children, a boy and a girl, from the Slangspruit Grade 7 class each year to Alexandra High School. So far, eight children have benefited from this.
Container World is proud to have been a part of this wonderful initiative and we are very glad that we were able to assist the community of Slangspruit.