The Partnership : Kleinood Farm, Weber Gedenk Primary and Jan van Riebeeck High School
From the Blaauwklippen Valley one can just make out the unassuming brown brick buildings ofWeber gedenk Primary school high up against the hill in Jamestown. This is where most of the primary school learners whose parents work in the Blaauwklippen Valley go to school.
The partnership between Kleinood farm Jan Van Riebeeck High school and Weber gedenk Primary evolved in a very natural way around some interesting coincidences and events. Kleinood’s connection with both schools is in the first instance because of children. The De Villiers children started and completed their school careers at Jan van Riebeeck primary- and high schools. Weber Gedenk, on the other hand, is where all the children of the people of Kleinood farm receive their primary education. Libby and her mother were both pupils at Jan van Riebeeck and furthermore Libby’s mother is closely related to the Renish pastor, Weber, who was the father of James Town and WeberGedenk Primary School. “The Rev. J Weber bought a piece of ground, Jamestown, which he divided into plots and sold to coloured families, in order to alleviate the housing shortage. In 1903, fifty plots had been sold, and by 1924 most of the people had paid for their plots, and the ground now belonged to them fully. In 1923 a small church was inaugurated, which initially also served as a school. In 1925 a second teacher was appointed.’ (The Rhenish Mission Society of South Africa Elfriede Strassberger.) Somehow it seems as if the partnership between Jan van Riebeeck, Weber Gedenk and Kleinood was always meant to be. Jan van Riebeeck is a big school with a rich history. It is also a typical city school with all the amenities, privileges, exposure and problems that go hand in hand with a school in a densely populated area with children from all walks of life. It was a highly stimulating environment that offered many opportunities for children with varying interests and abilities. All the same it is a government- funded school, which demands constant parent involvement and fundraising. Weber Gedenk Primary is a small school with a wonderful history, but also because of our infamous political history, bears the burden of endless social problems. It is a semi rural government-funded school with children that mostly come from poor and often troubled households, and thus few amenities to create an ideal educational environment. For a parent body with little or no educational background to support it, it is very hard to give or understand the support a government funded school needs to survive and create the necessary structures and amenities for a 21st century educational institution.
From Kleinood the community development is mainly driven and coordinated by the farm manager Joey Plaatjies. Joey’s involvement with the community and especially the children of the area is very closely linked to his own difficult and disadvantaged childhood. He has taken great care to determine exactly where and how he and Kleinood could make the most valuable and sustainable contribution to the lives of the people of the Blaauwklippen Valley. After a short visit to Weber Gedenk Primary School in February 2010 we decided that the school should become the pivot point of all our social development programmes. The school identified its most pressing needs and together we decided how best to approach and coordinate these projects.
Joey with Chaswin and Pieter, from the gardening team at Kleinood immediately established a small vegetable garden. The children, who have special needs other than a mainstream education, water and weed the garden during the week. Joey and his team do the spadework and maintenance on Wednesday- and Saturday mornings. In this way they develop a much-needed skill and spend valuable time outside, learning about seeds, plants and vegetables with their teacher. This is however a work-in-progress project with which we hope to eventually provide food for the really needy children and their families.
Joey is also fully aware of how important a role sport can play in the healing of a troubled community. In 2010 he organised a sports day for the whole of the Blaauwklippen community. Stellenzicht provided the venue and the farms sponsored snacks and drinks for the day. For Joey it was very important that it should be an alcohol free day – which it was. Much fun was had and a small sum of money was made for the benefit of Weber Gedenk. By popular demand this was repeated in December 2011 and will now be a yearly event in the valley. One very important outcome of these events is, that the Blaauwklippen valley now has a tug-of-war team that is affiliated with the South African Tug of War federation under whose auspices it regularly participates in regional and national events. On Monday 13 February the construction work on a new building dedicated to art and culture will start. This building forms an integral part of the idea to be involved in sustainable and concrete projects that will create facilities and opportunities equal to those for children from privileged backgrounds.
Whether Kleinood involved Jan van Riebeeck or visa versa is irrelevant. The fact is that we are committed as a team to separately and together implement our fields of expertise, creativity, time and financial and physical resources to develop this project to its full potential.
The children of Jan van Riebeeck have been working very hard during the past year to beautify the playgrounds, provide the necessary facilities in classrooms, and develop the sports grounds and to provide stationary, art materials and the beginning of a small library. Although the project is still very young and by no means near completion, we are proud to know that we could play a part in the success of the children and Mr. JJ van Niekerk of Jan van Riebeek and the ATKV- Handevat initiative. This has so far been only joy and a wonderful success story at that. Jan van Riebeeck the competed against many schools in this national competition managed to walk away with the first prize of R30 000.00 towards the Weber Gedenk coffers. They will now use this money to further develop and upgrade their classrooms, while Jan van Riebeeck and Kleinood will carry on with the other projects and objectives that need to be tackled.
The Arts Centre will be ready to use by the end of May 2012. We will then assist the school to fully utilise the building and to source the materials and aids they will need for this purpose.
Joey is in the process of organising an old-fashioned soap-cart race at Weber Gedenk which will take place on 5 May 2012. Kleinood will sponsor the day, supply the basic materials for the box-carts and prizes, assist with the building of the carts and organise the day. Weber Gedenk will host the day and sell refreshments and the children of Jan van Riebeeck will help the children of Weber Gedenk to build their carts. Joey and the gardening team will develop the vegetable garden and maintain and develop the school gardens with plants and seeds from Kleinood. The garbage and recycling system will be put in place. We will help Jan van Riebeeck to build on the library and to maintain the stationary and art material depots. We will also assist in the development and restoration of the classrooms. There will once more be a Blaauwklippen sports day in September 2012. The sports-fields are a problem because of the expense of water and the fact that there is no water pressure at the school. We would like to tackle the problem with rain and grey water tanks. All future projects will be agreed upon and coordinated by all three partners at all times. It will at all times be a group effort to achieve the objectives set by Weber Gedenk Primary School.
It is obvious that the children love their little school. It is a safe and stimulating environment for young children as it stands. Therefore we do not wish to take ownership of the school, but rather to create the tools and environment for the children and community at large to create an educational institution of excellence of which they can be proud and where the children of James Town can receive an education that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives.