Thanks to an amazing fundraising effort by Palmer Park Velo in October 2018 and monthly contributions from our current sponsors we were able to launch a new project at Misty Meadows school. The project aims to create a permanent makespace at Misty Meadows, a workshop for woodwork and metal work, to provide the children with the opportunity to develop practical skills which, alongside their academics, will allow them to have a brighter future.
The project was launched in January 2019 and has already been a huge success.
Cassie Janish, head teacher at Misty Meadows, writes:
“I am also SO delighted with how the workshop has been going so far. It has been amazing to see how the children take this opportunity so seriously and there is absolutely no playing about or silliness – they all seem to grow up with the responsibility of being allowed to use proper tools to make real things. I have particularly loved watching Sandile, one of our farm workers, rise to the challenge of teaching the children. When I first asked him whether he would do it, he said he was too scared because he is not a teacher. I told him I just want him to show the children what he does so that they will one day be able to do it too. It turns out he is a complete natural at the job and the children love and respect him already. This is such a story of upliftment in itself as Sandile is an “uneducated farmworker”, but so capable to teach what he knows so well. It is such a lesson as we re-think teaching – you don’t need highly qualified teachers; you need adults with skills who are happy to share those skills with children in a relevant context. I think Sandile is super-proud to say he is now a teacher.
The second amazing story I already have is about Xolise – he is a 12 year old boy whose 6 year old brother has been coming to Misty Meadows since the beginning of last year. Two weeks ago, their mother called me to say she had a problem and could she see me about it. She told me that Xolise was in Grade 6 at Dargle Primary, but still did not know how to write or read and the headmistress of that school had told her he needed to go to a special needs school in Pietermaritzburg as they could not keep teaching him because he was “too slow”.
The mother is a single mother of 4 children and she works on a farm about 1km from Misty Meadows. She cannot afford the transport to Pietermaritzburg, nor did she feel he would cope with getting there and back each day on his own. He told her that he is too stupid for school anyway, and maybe he must rather just go get a job so he can help her. She was so worried as she felt he was too young to leave school and get a job. I told her that I would be happy to take him for a few days to see whether I could help in any way. I told her that I couldn’t promise her I would be able to get him to Matric, but I could at least maybe offer him some practical skills that he could take with him to get a job when he’s a bit older. Needless to say he has LOVED his time at Misty Meadows and seems to be very capable with his hands – especially loving workshop (and our gardening classes and practical self-sufficiency lessons).
Today, I have offered for him to come permanently to Misty Meadows and to just attend every workshop class in the week as well as all of our other practical activities. I feel so grateful that I have something to offer this child that I know will be extremely valuable in skilling him in his life going forwards. Rather than just believing he is too stupid to go to school, I really think he will find that he is enormously capable at workshop activities and that there is something worthwhile and meaningful he can do with his life as he grows up. Sandile has agreed to take Xolise under his wing. This has made me realize how many children like Xolise must be falling through the cracks in these rural schools… none of these children are being offered any practical activities or skills and they will end up being school drop outs – I have seen enough young men in this community turn to crime or drugs because they really have nothing hopeful in their lives and absolutely no opportunities. This makes me determined to figure out how to set up a proper workshop over time so that I am able to offer children like Xolise the opportunity to just come and do practical projects as their “school”.
As for the Zoe Trust children – I told the girls they could choose whether they wanted to try workshop, or whether they would rather do the art lesson that happens at the same time. Both Sisi and Nthabi elected to do workshop and have been thoroughly enjoying it. Sisi says she is “so proud that she has actually made something herself, and that her mom can use it to keep her keys, so it is really useful”. Nthabi says she “enjoys being able to use real tools and to learn how they work”. She also says that “now she understands what Ian and Sandile do as a job and she realizes that even she could do something like that one day”. Njabulo was super proud of his keyring holder. He is the youngest person in our school doing the workshop classes and is coping so well with the challenge. He had to cut his piece of wood several times before it was straight, but instead of getting upset he said his key ring holder is “unique because it is shorter than everyone else’s”. He persevered beautifully to get to the end product even though it wasn’t the same as everyone else’s yet.”