In 2007, the first Elon University cohort visited Ekukhanyisweni Primary School in the township of Alexandra. Two days prior to our arrival, the 1092 students and 25 teachers had recently moved into their new building from the asbestos-filled, inadequate facilities they had previously occupied. Ekukhanyisweni is the Zulu word for “place of light” and the positive energy and spirit of hope captured the imagination of everyone on that day.
Since that initial visit, several of SASA’s service projects, including the Adopt-a-Student program, the Global Links Library and Literacy Campaign, and the One Laptop Per Child initiative, have been constructed around the school. Working closely with the school’s principal, Ms. Helen Mabonela, we share the vision of helping the school’s staff and students find sustainable, development opportunities to combat some of the problems that affect the country’s educational system, such as poverty, access to health care and technologies, illiteracy, and the struggling reader dilemma. By concentrating our service-learning initiatives around these central issues and working with a community partner that unselfishly permits us access to their world, Elon students have the opportunity to gather in-depth knowledge about the community in which we work and the issues that affect the quality of their daily lives, and they and our donors can track the growth of our partnership with the school over time.
While Ekukhanyisweni has a new building, conditions under which the students and staff function remain less than ideal. Classrooms are overcrowded, teachers experience limited access training and professional development opportunities, most of the students are failing literacy and reading competency tests, coming to school hungry, some are barefooted, facing serious health risks, and making impossible decisions between their struggle for an education and their responsibilities to their families.
Nurture the Mind: Through the Global Links Library and Literacy program, we will work to develop the EPS library as a place that promotes reading, literacy, creativity, and community development.
Nurture the Body: Through the Adopt-a-Student program, we hope that no child ever comes to school hungry, without shoes, proper clothing, or the physical supplies they need to participate effectively in the classroom. Since the program was instituted in 2007, students graduating have been recycling their uniforms and providing them to their peers in need. In addition, we have been working with the staff to help them develop a sustainable feeding program connected to the curriculum
To learn more about how you, your school, organization, or agency can join the SASA program’s service initiatives, or to make a donation towards a SASA project, visit the “Opportunities to Collaborate” section of the program website.