Irene tells us the Bongani Story
Bongani has been around for many years, and was a large school in the Bongani township area. The actual property however is owned by KET (Knysna Educational Trust).The school was supported by Child Welfare, who provided budgeted funding for the day to day running. This covered part of the salaries, some meals and school supplies. e’Pap came on board to assist with the nutritional meal in the morning, which also relieved a little of the financial burden. Leading up to Covid there were some 80 children in the school, but these started dwindling, and eventually the school closed at the beginning of 21.
In 2022, the school re-opened under a NPO that was established in KwaZulu-Natal in 2003, iThemba (meaning hope in isiZulu). They are already in partnership with 10 Pre-schools in KwaZulu-Natal. From there brochure, it is evident that they are focused on the well-being of the children and the need for good education. There were only 5 children that returned to the school. This was mainly due to the financial burden on residents as a result of covid.
After about 15 months they have built the numbers up to 57 children, although they do not all attend on any one day. Unfortunately, finances remain an issue as not all parents are able to regularly pay the fees. The principal of the school is the daughter of the founders of the NPO. She absolutely loves the children and is really dedicated to them. I often find her sitting on the floor with the children singing songs and playing games.
e’Pap partnership with Bongani goes back many years, and has been invaluable to their past success. Our support now through the change has proved to be essential. Many of the children were constantly ill, and after giving them e’Pap twice daily for a week, the change was quite remarkable, with lovely happy, healthy children evident.
I became a volunteer during 2016, after being approached by a fellow volunteer. There have been some challenges, especially during covid and the change-over in 2022. Cooks too, have come and gone, with the current cook being extremely loving and almost like a mother to the children. There was a lot of time spent in teaching her how to complete the stock sheets, with a lot of laughter. I am sure that Bongani’s sheets are now one of the best! She is a star.
I never feel nervous to venture into the township to deliver e’Pap, and you often hear strangers on the street calling out “e’Pap” when you drive past or when they see you stop at the school. There is an enormous sense of community amongst the residents, as well as a sense of joy, despite the hardships that are evident. There is also a striking difference between one property and another, the haves and the have not’s.
The major hardship that I personally experience when driving through the township is the absolute lack of care and thought for the animals (for the most part). As always there are exceptions, but if anything this issue would cause me to stop being a volunteer.
I am always touched by the joy on the children’s faces when I arrive, and their happy singing!