Schools do not exist in isolation. They reside within the communities they serve, and to function optimally (and find solutions to learning issues), they must work together with diverse individuals and structures in their immediate environment, including the private sector.
Today, when we consider various challenges facing schools and learners, there are even more compelling reasons why we cannot lose sight of the importance of community participation in schools.
This is why P&G is joining forces with UNICEF to restore and rebuild schools affected by the devastating unrests which rocked Kwa-Zulu Natal and Gauteng in July 2021.
“We can all agree that our education system has been tested to the limit in recent months,” P&G’s Communications Leader for Sub-Sahara Africa, Cassie Jaganyi, said, adding: “But as a nation, we have demonstrated time and time again how strong and united we are when confronted with pressing issues of this nature. We can overcome this if we come together to lend a hand towards healing and rebuilding our country, by ensuring that majority, if not all of the affected schools are restored to their former glory.”
To ensure that thousands of children gradually resume schooling come January 2022, Procter & Gamble (P&G) has pledged R7 million towards the start of a project that will see the first five schools in KZN being rebuild in the coming weeks.
“Through our brands such as Always, Vicks, Head & Shoulders, Pantene and Always we were able to raise funds and form the SiyakhaKabusha Initiative. This initiative aims to rehabilitate several schools destroyed during the riots, “added Jaganyi.
Working in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the National Education Collaboration Trust and the Department of Basic Education, the campaign has identified five priority schools for repair. They are Ikumhlophe Secondary School, Elora Primary School and Margot Fonteyn High in Umlazi, and Golden Steps School and Siphosethu Primary School in Pinetown.
Dire impact of the unrests on schools
Explaining the dire impact of the damage from the unrests and the subsequent looting of schools, aggrieved Siphosethu Primary School Principal Themba Sokhabase said it will take a long time for most affected schools to recover and return to full capacity learning in January (2022).
“It is really sad that we find ourselves where we are today given how hard we worked to ensure we provide safe and decent infrastructure to our learners,” Sokhabase said, adding: “Now everything we worked hard for and were proud to have achieved is destroyed; the learners records, the teachers and school records, they are all gone.”
However, he said he’s relieved that P&G is coming in to assist “and help us recover everything we’ve lost. We want to thank them in advance for reaching out to us when we needed them most. We really are pinning our hopes on them.”
Reiterating Sokhabase’ s sentiments, Agraj Sharma, P&G South Africa’s Vice President & General Manager, said the extent of the damages is far more than expected, as such it will take a great deal of time and resources to get the damage reversed.
“As a company that cares deeply about the community it serves and their most pressing needs, we are cognisant that the longer we wait, the more difficult it will take to get things back on track. So, we are all ready and set for the mammoth task that lies ahead, and together with our esteemed partners, we hope to assist and reach as many KZN schools as we can in the shortest amount of time.”
As Jaganyi best puts it, schools are the pillars of communities “and we must do everything in our power to protect them.”
The value they provide to society extends beyond education, she added. “Our schools aren’t only places of learning but are also part of ongoing intervention that regularly provide nutritious foods to children in need, which are beneficial to their physical and mental well-being, as the ability to realise their full potential. We need to work together as communities, government and private sectors to ensure they are not only afforded the basic human right to learning, but are treated fairly, equally, and with dignity.”
“South Africans have long been loyal supporters of our brands. It’s now our turn to pay it forward and show our appreciation to the people of this country by playing our part and ensure that quality education is accessible to all children irrespective of their economic backgrounds.” Concludes Jaganyi.