The Mthumbane Pre-Primary School is a two classroom educational institution for children aged three to six. There are between 60 and 80 pupils registered at the school: for the 2017 school year there are 74 children registered. Mthumbane Pre-Primary School aims to educate children aged between 0-6 years, providing a strong foundation for further education. The school is based in a community where families lack the means of providing basic necessities of life to the children. It is the only centre in the area who cares for young children in a constructive manner and provides them with educational support and security.
The school was built by the local community in 1989, consisting of two small classroom and a small kitchen area. It opened in 1990 and has become a central location and community anchor for all community projects and initiatives, reaching children, women and families throughout the township. The school has three trained teachers, one of whom is a volunteer assistant and get a small wage through the Rotary Club of Port St Johns. The Mthumbane Pre-Primary School is the only school in the area, and without it, the children would have to walk for over an hour across rough African bushveld to reach the closest alternative facility (4km) and they would thus be disinclined to ever attend school.
The Mthumbane Pre-Primary School relies strongly on charity. Connecting the school with the Amapondo Children’s Project (since 2008) has allowed for valuable improvement within the learning environment, as well as giving a supporting voice with social services and other important governing institutions. With the help of the ACP Project Manager and volunteers, the Mthumbane Pre-Primary School registered as a non-profit organisation in 2014. For the past 2 years, the Amapondo Children’s Projects has supported the school on an administrational level with the Department of Social Development. Thanks to the ongoing efforts of the principal and the Project Manager of the Amapondo Children’s Project, the school finally received funding through the Department of Social Development in 2016. This offers the school a budget for at least a part of their expenditure, such as salaries, training, administration and educational material.
The Volunteer Program of the Amapondo Children’s Project has allowed the Mthumbane Pre-Primary School access to additional help and support: both national and international volunteers help the teachers manage the classes and assist with teaching the children, ensuring that every child gets the individual attention it needs.
The presence of international volunteers has had a huge benefit in the teaching of English to the children. Three volunteers (who were qualified teachers from Europe) composed a workbook and example curriculum English for the teachers. The example curriculum is still being used and gets regularly updated by new volunteers. The main focus for the volunteers lays in teaching but volunteers have the opportunity to get involved with all aspects of both the Amapondo Children’s Project and the Mthumbane Pre-Primary School: a vegetable garden was created next to the school by volunteers so the teachers can add freshly harvest vegetables to the daily meals and many maintenance has been carried out by volunteers.
The ACP has an ongoing involvement with the Mthumbane Pre-Primary School and over the past years we have been able to improve and develop the school. The Amapondo Children’s Project helps with small maintenance (fixing the roof, re-painting the school inside and outside and building play facilities for the children, maintaining the garden) whilst focussing continually on raising funds to financially support the school. In 2010 a new extra classroom was built, funded with the help of local business owners and the helping hands of ACP volunteers.
In 2013 we helped mainly with small maintenance (fixing the roof, re-painting the school inside and outside) and building play facilities for the children whilst focussing continually on raising funds for next year. Thanks to various initiatives, the Amapondo Children’s Project was able to gain sufficient financial support to start building a new ablution block with two flushing toilets and a water tower, as the municipal water supply at the school is not reliable. This was our main project throughout 2014 and throughout the first months of 2015 the last details of the building work were finished by installing a urinal and replacing the gutters, so the water tower now gets regularly filled up with rainwater. This was the very first time that these children had ever had flushing toilets, and most of them had never even seen or used a flushing toilet previously.
Our biggest achievement in 2015 was applying for and receiving a grant from KFC Add Hope Campaign so the Mthumbane Pre-Primary School can now buy healthy nutritional food for the children for the entire school year. For the parents to know that their children are not only being educated but also nurtured, increases the number of children attending school on a daily basis. The Amapondo Children’s Project bought a refrigerator for the school and provides them with two shopping runs per week. In 2016 we renewed our funding with the KFC Add Hope Campaign and we are hopeful that this partnership will continue to exist for many more years.
Thanks to kind donations, the ACP made sure that the Mthumbane Pre-Primary School could update their First Aid Kit and we provided the school with fire extinguishers. The ACP volunteers fixed the first part of the fence around the school and put up a new gate, ensuring the children’s safety whilst attending school.
Last year the Amapondo Children’s Project partnered with the EOS Internationale Freiwilligendienste, a German organization that offers young enthusiastic German volunteers the possibility to participate in various projects all over the world. This new partnership is guaranteeing long-term volunteers who will spend a period of between ten and twelve months dedicating their time to the community of Port St Johns. EOS is funded by the German government, and their Programmes are called “Weltwaerts”, which translates into “Worldwide”. The Amapondo Children’s Project is now officially listed as a Weltwaerts-Programme for the Mthumbane Pre-Primary School and the Port St Johns Junior Secondary School and offers a placement for four volunteers.
What has been happening in 2017 so far? Thanks to a donation of the Rotary Club of Battersea London, we were also able to order new furniture for the schools and we look forward to receiving that delivery any moment now! Our Weltwaerts-volunteers arrived at the beginning of November last year and they have been doing a wonderful job at the school. They’ll be with us until August of this year and we are looking forward to meeting their successors. And we did some more fund raising to renew the remaining part of the old fence around the school.
The partnership between the Mthumbane Pre-Primary School and the Amapondo Children’s Project has been a success over the past 8 years, thanks to the dedication of its participants. The teachers, the School Governing Body and the local community work closely together with the Amapondo Children’s Project and its Volunteer Program to provide education and a strong foundation for the children of the community.