Breezy and cloudy weather did nothing to dampen the excitement of pupils at Siyazingisa Primary School, in Gugulethu, as they showed off their table tennis skills during the official unveiling of a table tennis court by the PingOut SA project, on Tuesday November 14.
Uthando organisation and Trans Africa Safaris company who were the main drivers of this initiative gathered at the school to witness the launch.
PingOut is an outdoor table tennis project that places cement table tennis facilities in public spaces and gives people an opportunity to play tennis while they were interacting and getting to know each other way better.
The project has so far installed six table tennis courts in different communities. Founder of PingOut SA, Sune Stassen, said the concept was intended to bring people, who might never have interacted with each other before, together and to address a challenge that many urban planners faced- creating spaces where people could interact and connect.
Ms Stassen first introduced the pilot project as part of the Open Design Cape Town festival in 2015.
She said during the festival, the table had provided many hours of fun as commuters, students, pupils, traders, tourists and people from all walks of life that had never met before.
She said the tables enabled people to connect over a game of ping pong and so far the response from the public had been overwhelming. “When people interact and engage over a fun activity, they end up talking and sharing ideas. The project aims to create a social cohesion while also bringing upliftment to many unused and unsafe places. It’s also pretty amazing to witness the power of Pingout when it connects complete strangers by giving them an opportunity to play together and have fun,” she said.
Ms Stassen said there was a dire need for more opportunities and greater infrastructure, particularly for children who were living in impoverished sprawling urban areas around Cape Town.
Grade 4 pupil Okuhle Jonas said he was excited that the school had a table tennis facility and that it had helped him sharpen his skills. He said he use to play for a local team but it had disbanded.
Okuhle said table tennis helped him stay away from the streets and had contributed to him learning to act quickly and make informed decisions.
He said he hoped one day to be a professional player and applauded the donors for giving them a platform to showcase their talent.
James Fernie, the founder and director of Uthando, a responsible tourism initiative, said because of the lack of opportunities for children in the township to participate in sport and meaningful activities, he had wanted to make the table tennis facilities available in poorer areas. He said two tables were also going to be installed in Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain.
Mr Fernie added that while the initiative had started three years ago, finding the right companies to install the equipment had been a major challenge. “Let’s change our communities through sport and we want to see many schools having these table tennis facilities,” he said.