THE KHAHLELA PROJECT
In January of 2018 KIDS Global Network volunteers returned to South Africa to build another library at a primary school in the Mpumalanga region. Ten years ago we met Maniki Mathebela, the principal at Manyeleti Primary School. We worked with him to refurbish an existing classroom and build a library at Manyeleti. We kept in touch with Maniki over the years and learned that he had moved to another school in Hvlukani, a neighboring village. This school had 300 students and was badly in need of resources like Manyeleti. The learners had no books except for workbooks for their classes.
There was a dilapidated mobile classroom available on the school grounds. Our crew arrived on January 17th with the plan to renovate the unused classroom. The floor needed to be replaced and lighting needed to be installed. Our partners, Apprentis Nomades, included Teo Lanfranca and Julien Lemoine from France. Our volunteers included Julia McEvoy from San Francisco, Marie DeCroocq from France and Ann Covode from Chicago. We were warmly welcomed by the teachers and students at Khahlela Primary School. Teo and Julien made plans for the floor and bookshelves. Maniki had also hired a contractor to help with the building process. Work began with ripping out the old floor and buying supplies for the new.
While they were busy with the library Marie, Julia and Ann began a PhotoVoice project with the teachers. The 12 teachers were all given small digital cameras and instructed on how to use them. They were asked to photograph their environments at school and at home. We asked them to share their thoughts on some of the challenges of teaching and living in the area. They also shared their thoughts on the lack of resources at the school and the remnants of Apartheid. We learned about their frustration with the lack of books and technology. SmartBoards had been installed in the school two years ago and worked for a short time. When they didn’t work, the state did not come out to fix them so they have been unused during that period.
Many of the students, they said, came as refugees from Mozambique with their families. Their parents have a tough time finding work as the unemployment rate in the area is 67%. The state does provide lunch for the students but for many this is their only meal of the day.
Teo and Julien were very resourceful in figuring out how to fix the SmartBoards. They also installed electricity in the new library so that it would be ready for computers and have lighting. Finally, we decided to install Wifi so that the Smart Boards could be connected to the internet as well as make way for computer connectivity in the future. We worked with a local furniture maker to make new sofas for the space as well as add bean bags for additional seating.
Another contact from earlier, Sue Mayne, from Exclusive Books in Johannesburg helped us to choose fiction, non-fiction, dictionaries, atlases and globes for the students. We also connected, Leslie Kesler’s 4th grade classroom in Indianapolis with Gift Ndlovu’s classroom at Khahlela. The two classrooms have been sharing videos and Skyping. They also plan to write letters.
Our next goal it to bring computers to Khahlela.