Giving poor pupils a chance to get together
Garden Cities has spent 11 years providing halls to underprivileged Cape schools
AFTER an assessment of educational disparity back in 2003, John Matthews, the then-newly appointed chief executive of the Western Cape’s oldest residential development company, Garden Cities, uncovered the gigantic shortfall of more than 700 school halls in disadvantaged WC schools.
Now 11 years later, the company’s Archway Foundation school halls continue to chip away at the massive monolith of inequality in Cape education. In its 11 years the Foundation has, provided 60 halls for poor schools in the province. The cost totals over R206 million, primarily its own funds, with the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) and corporates as fellow donors.
However, there are still around a million children in the province going to schools without a hall. They are still gathering in open quadrangles for assemblies, and hired halls for special occasions.
“No education system is perfect, but providing the basic necessities for a holistic education is an unarguable necessity. Redressing decades of neglect is a monumental task, and more help is needed,” he says.
Why Matthews chose school halls as his mission, and that of the Archway Foundation, which was created for the purpose, could be partly ascribed to personal experience. Driven to attain high levels of tertiary qualification, he didn’t have it easy. Schooling took place in conditions that were not privileged, and by no means equal.
He knows at first hand, the searing summer days and icy wet winters in which Cape children still today gather in the open for their schools’ assemblies, with nowhere to express their creativity, or gather for cultural expression.
School halls are still not a hugely popular cause. Unlike classrooms and laboratories they are not widely viewed as being key to educating young minds. This is entirely untrue.
A survey was conducted among principals, teachers, schoolchildren and parents at schools where Archway halls had already been handed over. It revealed that a school assembly hall made an extraordinarily positive difference to academic performancel, the levels of self-esteem among the entire school body, including the surrounding community, and the status of the school among potential pupils.
Children’s attitude towards school and learning changed. Creative energy was rekindled. It shows in academic results and in the achievements in culture, arts, sport and leadership.
There have been many expressions of thanks over the years, but none more heartfelt than that of the little rhyme penned by a Cape Town pupil:
Garden Cities, toe dit lyk/ of niemand luister na ons gepleit/ het julle nie geskroom/ met die verwesenliking van ons droom! ( Garden Cities, though it seemed no one heard our pleading, you heroically assembled a hall from our dreaming).
The Archway Foundation calls on all corporations to USE their CSI funds: equalise opportunities for all South African children by providing ONE of the basic educational necessities. John Matthews would welcome a call on 021 558 7181.
HOLISM: Garden Cities chief executive, John Matthews.