Solomon Shabangu: “Education is the key to success.”
Principal of Bambanani Primary School in Phola, White River, Solomon fervently echoes the 39 year old school motto. He runs a tight ship and with 578 learners ranging in age from 5 to 17 and a teaching staff of 19, needs to be on his toes.
Bambanani is a ‘No Fee’ school in an area with a high percentage of child-headed households and children living with pensioner grannies. When basic survival is at stake, learning the three ‘R’s’ tends to slide down the priority scale and if you are reading this, then chances are you went to school because your parents gave you no alternative so off you toddled every day with your breakfast-filled tummy. After school, you tackled the grind of homework completed at the table under electric light and with mum and dad’s assistance, followed by a warm supper, bath and bed.
Right, so the comparison is bleak but the reality is inspiring. Solomon is true to his Biblical namesake and spends the limited Department of Education funds wisely. He also runs the school with an empathetic eye, after all, it’s difficult to insist on adherence to the uniform regulations when your students’ motivation to attend school is often to obtain their only meal of the day.
After two years at the helm, Solomon is happy with progress at Bambanani under his tenure although he says they are not yet at the level he wants. The teaching staff are disciplined and dedicated but the food budget is stretched to cater for an additional 49 children. He wants to expand the sporting codes and add tennis and swimming to the current offering of soccer and netball. Extra mural activities include music and chess, and the school is always up for a chess challenge against any White River school. An annual prize giving has brought the competitive side out amongst teacher and learner alike, and the trophies and certificates are eagerly contested for.
The school library is impressive for its organised layout and the creative energy of Assistant Librarian Ms Fikile Mshwane. She painstakingly chips away at teaching the library monitors their tasks and responsibilities and encouraging the children to read. Each class has a weekly library session, books are withdrawn and returned, monthly themes brighten the walls and Fikile is keen to point out the firmly stated library rules and regulations. She’s proud of the current news folio she fills with topical news clippings, enabling children whose reading skills aren’t up to a book to practise on shorter pieces of writing. Standing in pride of place is the media stand filled with newspapers and magazines, most of them free publications that Fikile picks up every week.
Her wish list isn’t surprising – she points optimistically to the brightly painted, but empty, computer cubicles.
Ndabe Kweyama has taken on Bambanani as a mentorship project and from his golfing experience is eager to establish a driving range at the school. Don’t laugh – a new generation Tiger Woods could be hiding out in Phola and the life skills taught by hitting that dratted little ball are numerous.
Solomon has an impressively categorised list of areas of need to be addressed, and it’s not as long as you’d imagine. The school has established a vegetable garden to supplement the meals, and seeds would be gratefully received. For a copy of the list or to find out how to help, please contact Ndabe on 078 261 3376.
Stand 483, Masoyi Tribal Authority, Phola, White River
Phone: 013 981 1377
Mobile: 072 733 0192
Bambanani are NOT on Facebook
For sponsorship opportunities, contact Ndabe Kweyama 078 261 3376