History and development of the Centre
Following the first democratic elections in South Africa in 1994, many previously-disadvantaged residents of formal and informal settlements around the country started mobilizing for the establishment of educational institutions that would provide an opportunity for people to complete their formal schooling. Under the old apartheid government, schooling was not compulsory for anyone classed as ‘Non-White’. With widespread poverty and unemployment, many children had left school at an early age in order to supplement the family income through becoming mostly domestic workers or casual labourers in the construction and mining sectors.
Simultaneously, with the scrapping of the Group Areas Act, many thousands of people began leaving the rural areas for the cities in search of job opportunities. Those who arrived in Hout Bay settled at first along the banks of the Disa River close to Hout Bay beach in an area now known as Princess Beach. Public health and sanitation issues eventually forced the City of Cape Town to provide a more suitable site for the informal settlement and it was moved to an area that fell under the Department of Forestry and that is now known as Imizamo Yethu (‘Our good fortune’) or Mandela Park.
Unfortunately, many of the residents of Imizamo Yethu lacked the necessary education and job-related skills to be able to find employment which led to people being trapped in a continuous cycle of poverty. Education and skills training were needed to alleviate this problem.
At the time, there were several departments of Education each serving a particular population group. The local Department of Education and Training was lobbied for the establishment of a Community Learning Centre in the Hout Bay area for some time, but with no success. Several teachers from the Gugulethu Senior Secondary School formed a support group and, led by prominent local community leader Mr Kenny Tokwe, they marched on the Education Department and the necessary permission was finally granted. Most of the original academic staff at the Centre were these teachers from the Gugulethu Senior Secondary School who came to teach at Sijonga-Phambili on a part-time basis in the evenings and over weekends to supplement the very poor salaries paid to teachers at the time.
The Sijonga-Phambili Community Learning Centre was officially established in September 1995 under the leadership of Ms Thulle Leubane. The name ‘Sijonga-Phambili’ actually means ‘Looking Forward’ in isiXhosa. IsiXhosa is one of the African languages spoken by local residents. Being without premises of our own, permission was obtained for the shared use of classrooms at the local Oranjekloof Moravian Primary School and classes began. The sharing of facilities with the Moravian Primary School was not without its problems, especially with regard to access and availability of classrooms.
At the end of 1997, Ms Leubane emigrated to the United States to further her studies and the leadership position was then taken over by Ms Norrie Mntonintshi who remained in the position until the end of 2000.
In the meantime, all the previous education departments were absorbed into the old Cape Education Department and the new Western Cape Education Department (WCED) was established in 1998. This led to a uniform policy that laid down the formal structure and procedures for the management and administration of Community Learning Centres.
In February 2001, Mr Malcolm Coppin was appointed as the new Head of Sijonga-Phambili. He had been on the original staff that started up the Centre in 1995 and had taken early retirement from a senior position in mainstream education in 1998. Soon after taking charge, Mr Coppin notified the WCED of his plans to expand the Centre and to secure dedicated premises and facilities for the Centre. The WCED approved of these plans and the process of development began.
Within a few months a new site had been identified on land adjacent to the YMCA outdoor camp-site. The only existing structure on the land was a dilapidated and vandalised hall, referred to as the RDP Hall. Extensive funding would be needed to convert the facility into a functional building and the Rotary Club of Hout Bay was approached for assistance.
As an interim measure, Mr Coppin relocated the ABET (Adult Basic Education and Training) classes to venues within Imizamo Yethu with only the FET (Further Education and Training) classes continuing at the Moravian Primary School. Simultaneously, Mr Coppin set about securing tables and chairs (through the D.G. Murray Trust), a new photocopier (from a Rotary Club in the U.K.) and funding from the Federal Republic of Germany to convert the RDP Hall into classrooms and offices, all through the assistance of the Rotary Club of Hout Bay. By the end of 2001 the new facilities were ready, but occupation was delayed by three months whilst additional tables and chairs were being sourced – these finally coming from the BOK teachers’ training college in Kuils River that had recently closed down.
During 2004 and 2005 the first full-time Learnerships were offered at the Centre, namely, a Domestic Worker Learnership and a MERSETA Learnership in mechanical and electrical skills. Presented by an external service provider, Domestic Bliss, these learnerships benefited approximately 360 unemployed members of the local community.
In 2004, a local Dutch travel company, African Ample Assistance (AAA Travel) sponsored the construction of a new logo for the Centre and they also paid for the setting up, and hosting of, a website for us. They continue to provide this support, as well as support in several other areas, to this day.
The academic curriculum run by the Centre received a major boost in 2005 when a donation to the value of R50 000 was received from Media Works. This donation consisted of workbooks and teachers’ guides, in both hard-copy and electronic format, for all Literacy and Numeracy courses from ABET Level 1 up to ABET Level 4, including a self-help computer programme for each course and a photocopy licence. This was followed up with further training and updated manuals in 2008 to the value of an additional R56 000 with several new subjects being included at the upper levels. A further donation of course materials in ‘Plan to Manage your Time’ and ‘Prepare Yourself for Employment’ was received in 2009. Fully-updated and new materials were again received in 2012, this time carrying a market value of R64 000 .
Two years after moving into the RDP Hall it became apparent that the building had become inadequate both in terms of classroom size and the number of available rooms. A new, larger building was needed but that would require substantial funding. Then a major break came in the form of a Foundation from the Netherlands by the name of Goede Mensen, that was looking for a project to sponsor. In June 2004, members of the board of Goede Mensen were brought to the site for a visit by a local Dutch resident and Rotary Club member, Mrs Mirjam Anema. The Centre was one of five projects being considered by the Foundation and our project was ultimately the one that was selected.
Guided by a budget of approximately €80 000 (R640 000), a plan was drawn for two new classrooms, a skills training facility, kitchen, strongroom and garage. To this plan was added another upstairs level incorporating three more classrooms, a computer room, ablutions and offices. An application was submitted to the National Lottery for the funding needed for this additional upstairs level. On hearing that we had applied for additional funding to the Lottery, members of the Goede Mensen board were not pleased as this would mean that they would become only part-sponsors of the project. They subsequently offered to fund the entire project at a total cost of R1 530 000. The National Lottery, in the meantime, had turned down our request for funding because we were not registered as a Non-Profit Organisation. After becoming registered as an NPO we applied again, but no reply was received from the Lottery.
Construction on the new building began in the last quarter of 2005 and the building was officially opened in November 2006. The Goede Mensen foundation provided further funding for fixtures and fittings in the building and also funded the construction of a bridge and standing lights through the forest leading to Imizamo Yethu.
A substantial donation of 240 student tables and chairs was received from Domestic Bliss, the Learnership Training Company that had recently closed down and a complete alarm system with free monitoring and armed response was received from ADT Security (Pty) Ltd which enabled us to take occupation of the new facility in January 2007.
Then, in July 2007, a letter finally arrived from the National Lottery granting approval of our application for R850 000 for the building of classrooms and a skills training workroom. The skills workroom that had been planned for the main building had since been modified for use both as a general purpose hall and as a classroom for the large number of Grade 12 students, so another plan was drawn for a Skills Training Centre with an Employment Office. At the same time we were approached for possible assistance in accommodating a Child Care Centre where approximately 45 children were being cared for in a double garage nearby. The new building plan was amended and an additional amount of R300 000 was offered by Goede Mensen to enable the inclusion of all the necessary facilities required by a Child Care Centre.
In 2008, the Goede Mensen Foundation donated 20 Pentium IV computers together with LCD monitors and peripherals to the Community Learning Centre and during September 2012 further funding made it possible to have all the computers networked and a high-speed DSL line installed. Computer Literacy Courses have been run for a number of years and the new internet connection has been greatly welcomed by students and members of the local community, most of whom do not possess computers.
Construction on the new Skills Training Centre started in May 2008 and was completed in July 2009. The Child Care moved into its new premises on 06 August 2009. Funding for all furniture, appliances, teaching equipment, books and toys was provided by the Angel Starfish Project based in the U.K. This organisation also provides a monthly donation towards salaries and other operational costs. In 2009, a further donation of R1 500 per month was secured from a local company, the Buchanan Group (SA), to provide a cooked meal for the children at lunch time each day.
The Skills Training section came into operation in January 2010 with further funding from Goede Mensen making it possible to purchase tools and various items of hardware and equipment.
In the latter part of 2010, Mr Jaap Kreeftenberg of AAA Travel arranged for a lady from Monaco to visit the Centre and she very kindly, but anonymously, donated funds that enabled us to purchase a bus for transporting the children and students to and from the Centre.
However, the Child Care Centre grew so rapidly that it became necessary to accommodate the two additional classes of children in the skills training workroom and the training office. Then, in 2011, the Goede Mensen Foundation very kindly agreed to pay for the construction of the two additional classrooms needed by the Child Care and these were completed in 2012. Further funding was also provided by Goede Mensen for furniture and fittings needed in the new classrooms with the total donation amounting to R350 000.
In May 2012 the first full-time, practical, hands-on, skills training courses started at the Centre. These courses formed part of the Expanded Public Works Programme initiated by Government and were presented by two external service providers, Tjeka Training and IETI. Appropriately qualified artisans provided instruction in several aspects related to the construction industry, such as bricklaying & plastering, carpentry & roofing, painting & varnishing as well as paving.
The next developmental project is the establishment of an ‘Internet Café‘ type facility that will assist the Centre to become more self-supporting and less dependent on external funding and donations in terms of operational expenditure.