Every year, the sight of children walking to school barefoot, exposed to the freezing Joburg winter, rattled the hearts of teachers at Moduopo Primary School in Tembisa – so much so that they would dig into their own pockets to buy shoes and sometimes warm jackets for pupils.
This year, the plight of the school reached the ears of good Samaritans and OR Tambo International Airport, through its winter warmer drive, donated 191 pairs of school shoes to needy pupils on Friday, 7 June. On the day, pupils – wearing their maroon uniforms, with a trim of gold – welcomed the visitors with songs they spent weeks practising and perfecting for this welcome occasion. Most of the children at the school come from informal settlements such as Ivory Park, for others, rented back rooms are their family homes.
In spite of the odds, the youngsters sang their hearts out. Though the lyrics of their songs were sometimes difficult to understand, their voices blended together, bringing the message to the listeners: “We have the future in right here, in our hands.”
Masilo Serumula, the principal, said it was humbling to be chosen from so many other needy schools in Tembisa. “We have children from very poor homes here. We try as teachers to put our heads together but it is never enough. Sometimes as teachers we buy some learners a full uniform because we can really see that they don’t have anything, and if their parents are not employed there is nothing they can do.”
Serumula added: “I am excited; I am over the moon that OR Tambo is helping us in this way. We hope that this is the beginning of a partnership that will better the lives of these children.” He said local business people also helped the school. “We have a good relationship with some of the business people. They buy uniforms and food parcels for the school sometimes.”
Pinky Mofokeng, the chairperson of the school governing body, is also grateful that OR Tambo reached out to the school. “Many of our children already complain of the cold. As it stands we were worried about how they would cope when winter hit.”
Flamboyant musician and television presenter Stone Seete was the programme director on the day. He encouraged the children to look beyond the hardships of Tembisa, and told them that they could make it, the same way as did one of the township’s proud sons, Sibusiso Leope, known to fans as DJ Sbu, a budding entrepreneur, radio personality and commercial DJ.
Unathi Batyashe-Fillis, a communications and brand manager at the airport, said: “OR Tambo International Airport is committed to creating opportunities that make a difference to people of all ages in the communities we serve.”
The shoe drive is aimed at benefiting 1 000 pupils from communities around the airport.