Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Following a field of dreams...

Last year Derek Smith of Reading Matters took on a private project that is proving to bring out the best in everyone involved. Derek along with kind partners have offered to build a library for inner city Johannesburg school Albert Street School.

They not only pledged to build the library, they are making it happen. The principal at Albert Street School along with his staff members are not sitting back and watching their dreams of one day having a library come to life, they are getting their hands dirty and being a part of the change.


Oh yes, at long last the show is on the road – After months of begging, using all my persuasive skills (like hitting people on the head with a plastic hammer), blackmail, extortion and guilt tripping the Field of Dreams Library at Albert Street School in downtown Jozi is becoming a reality.

Amecon, the construction company who is undertaking the majority of the refurbishment of the old minister’s manse started yesterday. On a Saturday.  AndrĂ© and his team who are so committed to make this happen that they have to work on weekends, free of charge, to fit it into their very busy programme. Amecon hopes to finish the build over four Saturdays.
Alpha Zhou, the school principal was waiting when we arrived. In an overall - to help with the hard craft. So were some of the older kids – carting away rubble, sprinkling water to keep down the dust. We do believe in child labour, not as exploitation but so that they can take ownership of Field of Dreams.
“We want to do things ourselves;” Alpha said, “We cannot expect others to do things for us.” Alpha’s Can Do attitude is one of the reasons why I am involved in the establishment of this library. He’s not waiting for the miracle to come, but making it happen. What else can one expect from a Zimbabwean refugee who once slept on the church pews of Paul Verryn’s Methodist Church when he first came to South Africa?
He dared to dream to start a school for the refugee children two years ago in a disused church building. It grew from a handful of children to more than 450 of which more than a 100 are refugee orphans. They get by on a wing and a prayer, heaps of commitment and passion to ensure a world class education for their children, Albert Street School gets NO government funding, no learning resources, no textbooks  - nothing at all
Alpha and his teachers get a small stipend from the Methodist church to survive. At the end of the 2010 Albert Street had twenty children ready to enter for the Cambridge International Examinations, but there was no funding to enroll the kids. The teachers donated the little income they receive to register the children. Of the 30 kids that entered 21 passed, 10 at A level which gives them university exemption.
This type of commitment and results has to be measured against the South African educational scenario, where teachers strike and schooling is disrupted at the drop of a hat. About 20% of the class of 2010 in government schools qualified for university exemption compared to 70% of those in Albert Street.
I know it’s not a fair comparison because the number of learners does not equate. I also know that dedication and commitment pays huge dividends when one believes the impossible is possible.
Field of Dreams will be greatly assisting these kids to make their dreams a reality.
Thank you to everyone who contributed so far.  

Let’s Rock & Roll
-contribution by Derek Smith

Follow this story...

1 comment:

  1. A wonderful school!
    Hillbrow Theatre Project