This week the NCCF visited the Lerato Education Centre with members from the Jet team. The education centre with its large grounds and well-equipped playground stands out in the dusty informal settlement of Jackson’s Drift in Eikenhof. Over the last13 years the centre has grown from 16 children and one shipping container, to more than 450 children and about 20 containers. Sister Mary arrived from Ireland all those years ago, saw a need and has gone above and beyond to develop this incredible centre.
The dusty grounds of the centre are spotless, and some of the containers brightly painted by sponsors, as are the interiors with proper desks and teaching aids. Generous sponsors have also donated the school uniforms. Teachers, the amazing Sister Mary, and other staff members were all boasting about their achievements in education, and assistance given to this poverty stricken community, where 80% are unemployed and about 75% are HIV+ – adults and children alike.
Although the centre is an NPO, they cannot receive government funding as an education centre, as grants will only be forthcoming when they receive PBO certification and an official lease for the site on which they are situated. School fees are R100.00 per annum, but most families are unable to contribute even that. Those that are unemployed offer their services to the centre at no charge by doing maintenance work, cleaning the classrooms, and helping in the kitchen. The children receive porridge in the early morning, and the lunch later is their only other meal for the day. A couple of local stores donate sell-by-date products, and every Wednesday a couple of members from the local Muslim community arrive with a hot meal for all the children. Sister Mary also tries to send food parcels home for the most desperately needy.
The Lerato Education Centre’s most pressing needs are for groceries and readers for grades 1 – 3. The NCCF will be supporting them for this as a one-off for 2013, but would like to add them to our portfolio, perhaps for even two shops per annum. This is a really deserving cause with such a good feel about – they are making a real difference and doing it all themselves.