The Lorraine Poswa Mzimkhulu Pre-School was established in 1994 by the late Lorraine Poswa and the community of Zithathele area in the rural town of Libode, Eastern Cape, South Africa. The area was subjected to some of the worst ravages of the apartheid area and as a result still suffers from extreme deprivation and poverty, with very high levels of unemployment. However the community were committed to ensuring that their children had access to vital early education to provide them with the opportunities to overcome those adversities. State-funded primary school in South Africa starts at the age of 6; prior to that pre-school education is only available on a fee-paying basis.
In those early years the children were taught outside under the trees, until Lorraine Poswa offered the use of her rondavel as a classroom. From 1994 until 1999 the school was sponsored by members of the community with small amounts of money and the teachers were volunteers. In 1999 the ANC Support Group in London started supporting the school, donating modest sums for books, food for the children and small contributions for the teacher. The Masikhule Project (the successor to the ANC Support Group) continues to support the school with regular donations for the staff and food for the children.
As the numbers increased and Ms. Poswa’s rondavel became too small for the class, the community desperately needed a school building. It was at this stage that One Pump Court became involved. Having heard about the school’s plight in 2002, One Pump Court decided to raise the money to build the school. In 2004 the land was granted to the school by Chief Mzamane Mzimkhulu. After considerable fundraising efforts, by 2005 sufficient funds were raised for the school’s construction, which was completed in December 2005.
One Pump Court has continued to raise funds for essential work on the infrastructure and development of the school.
Since then, One Pump Court has continued to raise funds for essential work on the infrastructure and development of the school. This enabled a fence to be constructed around the school’s perimeter, keeping the children safe and enabling the grounds to be used for growing produce to feed the children. In 2007 a French drain and septic tank were installed, although the school is still without an electricity supply, which means that the children still have to use outside pit latrines. Additionally, playground and other equipment was purchased from funds raised.
However, what was needed most was an enlargement of the school, which currently has one classroom which can accommodate up to 30 children, one teacher, one classroom assistant and a cook. The pre-school is the only one of its kind within a vast administrative area. This has meant that numbers of children at the school have been increasing at a rapid rate. By January 2009 116 children were enrolled at the school, the teacher being unable to turn away children who had walked for up to 6 miles a day to get there, and whose only meal in the day would be the dinner provided by the school. Numbers are now reduced to 85 for health and safety reasons, though still over capacity.
One Pump Court is therefore dedicated to raising the additional funds that are vital to extend the school structure. Recently they donated funds to enable a pre-fab building to be constructed. This is now complete, and can accommodate an additional class of children. Funds are also being provided for furniture for the prefab classroom. However, at least £25,000 needs to be raised (of which £10,000 has already been collected) to enlarge the basic school building. In late 2010 members of One Pump Court formed a charity – The Mzimkhulu Fund, to assist in its fundraising efforts, which is awaiting charitable status from the Charity Commission.
It is hoped that ultimately the local education authority will subsume and fund the school. However with political developments in South Africa, this looks like being some way off.
The school plays a vital role in the community. Most of the children are HIV positive or are HIV orphans. Most are living with grandparents or with older siblings who themselves are still in high school. The meal they get at the school is usually their only meal of the day. To provide a service to the community that will make a real difference to their lives and development it is essential that One Pump Court is able to fund a substantial increase in the school’s infrastructure and staffing levels.