New year, new decade…endless possibilities. As Simbithi, an anchor partner, enters its fourth year with Partners for Possibility, we take a look at our 2020 partnership. Our Technical Manager, Nicky Misra will be business leader for Lloyd Primary School principal, Thokozani Potelwa.
It is positively scorching as Nicky Misra, hard hat in hand, makes his way to along the R102. As Simbithi becomes farther, and farther, away, the landscape along the ‘old road’ gradually changes. Bustling industry in Shakashead, then Umhlali, then Shakaskraal makes way for the humble abodes in Groutville, Malende and Melville. It is roughly 15 minutes before Nicky arrives at the unassuming gate to Lloyd Primary School, in Ntshawini, a township just before Stanger. Smartly dressed Thokozani is waiting, and grins broadly at Nicky. The two have already had their introductory meeting and, according to Learning Process Facilitator Terry Dearling, “got on like a house on fire”.
The school’s chirpy security guard teases Nicky about the blistering heat as he makes his way onto the school grounds with Thokozani. Today, Nicky is here to view progress on the school’s long-awaited renovation. “We are so, so happy this is finally happening,” Thokozani claps excitedly as he leads the way onto the construction site. Construction on Phase One of the upgrade began last year and six months in, contractor Highpana Projects cc has made pleasing progress. “If you look here,” Thokozani points toward a long, five-roomed structure. “This block will house our Grade R learners. Five classrooms!” He walks toward a block about to go up a floor. “In this block, we’ll have 13 more classrooms. It is going to be so good to have our learners comfortable, and not squashed together.”
Nicky, a qualified engineer, is keen to offer his insight on the project. “This is coming along well, principal,” Nicky nods. Thokozani adds the new school will boast media centres, a computer room and a combo court, where learners will play sport. The first phase is expected to be completed by 2021. The second phase, which includes a new administration block and parking lot, will begin once the KZN Department of Education makes more funding available.
As the two head out of the gate to the school’s current entrance, the dire situation Lloyd Primary presently finds itself in becomes clearer. There is no parking area for teachers: simply a patch of gravel where they leave their vehicles. Learners, too, have no play area. The school’s landscape is devoid of any greenery, so learners find spots between the small classrooms on the ground, or concrete, to play. This, says Thokozani, makes it difficult for teachers to keep track of their whereabouts. “We have to be on duty, everywhere. Our little ones, especially, don’t even have a place to play together.”
Roughly 1400 learners from grade R to seven are housed in dilapidated buildings and temporary park homes. Some windows are broken but, Thokazani shares with a smile, the learners find a way to keep them open during the heat. “We may not have much, but the learners do their best to keep the school neat and clean.”
As Thokozani opens up the current admin office, which is simply a passage the school has converted into a small reception area and office, he mentions one of their challenges is a lack of an intercom system or speaker. “When we have to locate a teacher or child, we cannot make an announcement. I often have to leave my office to walk through the school to find someone. By the time I return, there are more people waiting. During assembly, the children stand outside while we speak. When it rains, we can’t have assembly.”
Despite the school’s challenges, Thokozani – an experienced, energetic educator – is determined. And, with Nicky by his side, he looks forward to taking Lloyd Primary to new heights. Nicky, of course, has an entire army backing him: the team at Simbithi and our caring community. “I am excited to explore the ways in which I can enrich Thokozani and the children at Lloyd, and I’m eager to absorb and learn whatever I can from his community.”