FOR A GOOD CAUSE: Lindokuhle Mahlangeni, SANRAL Southern Regional project manager in training and Mooiplass Public Primary School principal Nomqondiso Gobingca with Grade R learners (from left) Akhanani Makinana, Likhanyile Kame and Amvuyele Mcilongo, all five years old. These were some of the children who received school shoes donated by SANRAL.
Children at Mooiplass Public Primary School in the impoverished Mzwini village in the Eastern Cape received 80 new pairs of school shoes on Tuesday, 3 May.
These children would often stay away from school in cold or rainy weather because they don’t have school shoes or any kind of shoes suited to wear during cold and rainy weather.
Some of the children who braved the cold and windy conditions came to school in shoes that were damaged, the wrong size or even sandals, where they eagerly waited for a new pair of shoes and some stationery from SANRAL.
The initiative, motivated by Lindokuhle Mahlangeni - SANRAL Southern Regional project manager in training, was in response to extreme poverty seen at the school by SANRAL staff working in the community.
Mahlangeni competed in the 56km Old Mutual Two Oceans Ultra Marathon this year with the aim of raising 56 pairs of school shoes. One for every kilometer completed, hence #56SCHOOLSHOESCHALLENGE.
“The original idea was for companies to identify an individual from my running club, Vukani Multi Sports Club (MSC), or even the race and sponsor 56 shoes, one for every kilometer completed,” he said.
Mahlangeni has been working for SANRAL for just over a year. He asked his colleagues at all the SANRAL regional offices for help and received an overwhelming response. More than 800 pairs of shoes were donated by various SANRAL staffers across South Africa, with the biggest contributor thus far, being SANRAL Northern Region. “We still have to tally up monetary collections in order to obtain the total number of school shoes donated,” he said.
Principal Nomqondiso Gobingca said about 70% of the school’s pupils live with their grandparents. “Most people are unemployed and about 30% of the parents are illiterate,” said Gobingca.
She said in many cases parents had left to find work in urban areas, taking the child grant bank cards with them while leaving their children behind with grandparents – many of which were not eligible for social grants.
“We are so grateful for the school shoes. We need Samaritans like Lindokuhle and his colleagues at SANRAL to help these children. Many of the teachers go beyond their duties and bring in whatever clothes and shoes they can. But the needs are too great and we can’t do this alone,” she said.
An emotional Mahlangeni told the children, teachers, parents and school governing body members that the initiative was only possible because of team work, similar to the massive support that members of Vukani MSC offer to one another.
“It is easy for people to turn a blind eye when they see hardship. But you never know. That child who suffers today might just be the person who helps your child one day.”
Village chief Jongilizwe Makinana said SANRAL had worked on numerous road projects linking the villages he leads.
“These children will never forget what you have done for them,” said Chief Makinana.
School governing body (SGB) chairman and father of two children, Desmond Milisi has been unemployed since 2012. He said the parents were unable to meet the school’s needs.
“It is a struggle to buy school uniforms, school shoes and even food. We rely on my parents’ grant and my children’s grant money. I am desperately looking for any work and I am so grateful for the donation received today (Tuesday, 3 May),” said Milisi, a former forklift driver.
Mahlangeni was a keen sportsman his whole school life, participating in athletics, tennis, rugby, soccer and cricket. Golf recently became his new favourite sport.
He began training for the Old Mutual Two Oceans Ultra Marathon last September when he had the idea to raise school shoes. His training included running about 150km per month, cardio workouts, swimming, resistance training, cycling and even yoga.
Mahlangeni grew up in an urban area and never had to walk long distances to school - except for the odd occasion when he spent his transport money on other things.
Mahlangeni’s next mission is to run the Two Oceans Marathon in school shoes to raise awareness and draw attention to the plight of rural school children.
“For me it will just be a one-day 56km run. They are facing 12 years of difficulties - which doesn't even begin to collate.”
The official handover date for the remaining shoes will be during June 2016 to rural located schools in and around Maclear.