Mpumalanga — THE misery some South African children must endure to attain education,a fundamental human right, is immense. This is particularly so in the case of impoverished communities bearing the brunt of the prevailing social and economic challenges afflicting the country. In some instances, minors' health is compromised and life endangered as they have to put up with learning centres lacking running water and ablution facilities, or endure learning at classrooms situated adjacent to facilities and operations unconducive to learning. Some peri-urban areas in the eastern Mpumalanga are among regions that have endured such crises. At Wilge, near Emalahleni, the Sibongindawo Primary School was situated on land that was earmarked by a leading mining firm to develop a new mine to supply Kusile Power Station, a key electricity generating facility, with coal. The learners used an old run-down hostel building with many potential health and safety risks. Not only did occupants of adjacent quarters make it not conducive to learning, a major health scare was encountered when a pupil accidentally ingested a used condom. "The outrageous incident prompted us to intervene," says Brenda Kruger, Eskom Development Foundation Project Manager. Thanks to the foundation's intervention, a new multimillion primary school where the children from impoverished backgrounds are learning under serene conditions has been constructed in Wilge. After learning of the dilapidated state of the school, and the dire conditions at the nearby Imbalenhle Primary, the Eskom Development Foundation made donations and assisted in the building of a new school. The foundation channeled over R2 million to the project that has culminated in the combining of the two schools into one, adopting the name Sibongindawo and enrolling more than 250 children. The enrollment at the energy-efficient school is expected to double with the ongoing development of the Kusile Power Station, a high-efficiency, reduced-emissions coal-fired power plant that will provide electricity to 3 million South African homes when up and running. "The classes at the two schools were falling apart, presenting a risk to learners and educators," Kruger recounts. "The conditions were hectic. The inadequate toilets facilities in the open, the stench and the flies... " She hails Alstom and ArcelorMittal for also coming on board to ensure the minors were equipped with a state-of-the -art school. Eskom Development Foundation has also made available a complete photovoltaic system, gas stoves, fridges, freezers and a vegetable garden at the school that also boasts a computer centre. The school is also benefitting from free services offered on site by the globally-recognised Eskom Bophelong Mobile Health Clinic that has provided services to over 21 000 learners since 2014, with plans afoot to expand its reach. "We are glad kids are out of those terrible conditions they learnt under. Our children deserve better," says Kruger. The initiative by Eskom's Development Foundation is among a number of the power utility's corporate social investment strategy in sectors including enterprise development, education, healthcare, social and economic development. In January, the Eskom Development Foundation recently completed a three-year programme aimed at assisting ten secondary schools in Mpumalanga to improve their mathematics and science . Meanwhile, Sibongindawo principal, Elias Sithole, says the gesture by the foundation has transformed the children's learning experience at his school. "Formerly, under the multi-grade system, the environment was unfavourable with different grades sharing classes. The health and safety of children was at risk because of mining activities and inadequate toilet facilities among others. These problems are now history. Thanks to Eskom, the children now have a beautiful school and a better future," Sithole says. Eskom Development Foundation Acting Chief Executive Officer, Cecil Ramonotsi, says the organisation is proud to make such meaningful contributions. The foundation, he says, is committed to helping create environments that are conducive for learning. "As a result of this intervention, learners from both schools are now able to learn and be taught in a proper facility that is safe and provides all the basic amenities including a kitchen, library, ablution facilities and security fencing," Ramonotsi says. - CAJ News
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