As the education department struggles to keep up with the demand for additional schools to accommodate the thousands of youngsters in Cape Town’s townships, Irish businessman Niall Mellon, has taken some of that responsibility upon himself.
Mfuleni Primary and Manzomthombo Secondary in Mfuleni recently became the latest beneficiaries of Mr Mellon’s charity organisation, Mellon Educate. The two schools will soon have bigger and better classes which are currently under construction.
Speaking to Vukani on Tuesday November 19, during Education MEC Debbie Schafer’s visit to Mfuleni, Mr Mellon said he had been saddened by the sight of young pupils having no proper schools or being cramped in one classroom.
He said his work with the education department started in 2014. He said he had been building houses but subsequently changed his focus to education.
“We bring volunteers to build houses. They raise money on their own. Each volunteer raises R60 000 plus flight tickets and accommodation fee. We are grateful to have worked with the Western Cape Department of Education. We are honoured to have such volunteers, some of whom have been with us for 20 years,” he explained.
Mellon Educate organises the “Building Blitz” trips to provide opportunities for volunteers world-wide to improve school buildings in poor communities in Africa. More than 1 400 Mellon Educate volunteers have participated in Building Blitz programmes over the past five years, at 10 schools to date in the province.
At the two schools, about 300 international volunteers are building extra classrooms and other facilities as part of a Building Blitz organised by Mellon Educate. Another 100 volunteers from Old Mutual, the charity’s primary South African sponsor, have joined the international team. Their aim is to finish a school building project within seven days.
They are building six Grade R classrooms at Mfuleni Primary and one additional standard classroom. They are also building a library, an ablution block and a playground with a covered shelter, along with general refurbishment. The school has 1 215 pupils.
Applauding the initiative, Ms Schafer said: “We warmly welcome the Mellon Educate volunteers to Cape Town once again. It’s wonderful to see the passion and commitment they bring to this programme. It’s worth noting that the international volunteers raise their own funds to participate. We deeply appreciate their support, and that of Mellon Educate who are demonstrating the importance of partnerships of this kind. This project is a wonderful example of collaboration at work.”
At Manzomthombo, which has 1 665 pupils, the volunteers are building five new classrooms. The project at the school also includes two covered shelters, an outdoor gymnasium, sports field improvements, a security hut and security systems.