Mandela Day revamp for Soweto school

18 July 2012

Batsogile Primary School in Pimville, Soweto was a hive of activity on Wednesday morning as it found itself one of the recipients of South Africans’ goodwill on International Nelson Mandela Day.

Mandela Day is an annual celebration of Madiba’s life and a global call for action for people to recognise their individual power to make an imprint and change the world around them. Mandela turned 94 on Wednesday.

The no-fee school, which first opened its doors in 1972, had not once had its buildings revamped, except for a computer lab, which was installed in an existing classroom.

The interior and the exterior of the school remain untouched, with major concerns being falling ceilings, old plumbing and toilets in need of repairs.

But thanks to Mandela Day, the school received the much needed revamp as LeadSA, the Department of Basic Education, celebrities and other stakeholders gathered to help the school.

The day’s activity started at 8am, as the little voices from pupils braved the cold winter morning to sing happy birthday to Madiba.

Just before 9am, the volunteers, which included Basic Education Deputy Minister Enver Surty and Miss South Africa Melinda Bam, rolled up their sleeves to paint the perimeter fence and classrooms.

Others prepared to give the school’s garden a makeover and plant trees, clean the storeroom and classrooms, as well as re-fence, sort out the library and upgrade the staffroom, among others.

The volunteers, who included local unemployed people, also engaged the children in arts, crafts, drama, science and sport.

Surty said Mandela Day was more than a celebration of Nelson Mandela’s life and legacy – it was a global movement to take his life’s work into a new century and change the world for the better.

He called on South Africans to stand up and do the right thing and make a difference, despite the many challenges that the country faces. “It’s a day to inspire hope, take action and make change.”

He called on teachers across the country to ensure that the children of South Africa receive a quality education.

The Deputy Minister said the campaign to alleviate the infrastructure backlog in primary schools in poor communities in the country would make a significant contribution to fulfilling Mandela’s dream for every child to be educated.

“Tata placed a huge emphasis on the provision of quality education for all, and the Department of Basic Education is committed to realise this goal,” he said.

LeadSA’s Yusuf Abramjee said the country needed to make every day a Mandela Day. He challenged people to look around and see what change they could make in the country.

School principal Paul Ramela was excited about the upgrades, which have had a ripple effect on his staff. Ramela, who was once a pupil at the school, wished that initiatives like these could be done on a more regular basis.

Miss South Africa, who was dressed in casual jeans, urged fellow South Africans to follow Mandela’s great example and assist the country’s needy.

“Everyone can make the change, no matter how small,” Bam said. “I don’t think it’s a challenge to find a cause, community, an old age home or even a school that needs your help.”

IT company AG Software has adopted the school for two years. The company says they are looking at improving the infrastructure of the school first before seeing to other needs.

They have also committed to building a media centre at the school, hosting fundraising days and uplifting the community.

Surty said this was proof that the private sector could partner with government for the general good and upliftment of the country