Mediclinic business leader goes beyond to uplift Cloetesville learners

As the Partners for Possibility programme gains increasing recognition, many South Africans are realising that the solution to our education crisis lies with cross-sectoral collaboration and efforts to develop the school leaders that our country sorely needs

Gareth van Zyl of BizNews discovered this, and more, when he sat down with Mediclinic ICT Ops Manager, Deon Myburgh, who is partnered with Principal Dorian Meyer of Cloetesville High School in Stellenbosch

‘’I’m very passionate about education and I’m very passionate about helping underprivileged people and schools so, I was extremely keen to find a platform like this to get involved,’’ explained Deon.

Deon found the ideal platform in PfP and soon realised that the school he would be supporting is located in a poverty-stricken community that suffers from many social ills.

 ‘’This community is ridden with gangster activity. It is an impoverished community where approximately 60% of the community earn less than R70,000 per annum and 11% actually record no earnings. Safety is one of the biggest challenges that we came across with the likes of gangsters that target the school,’’ he pointed out.

Deon observed that drug abuse among the learners was rife and that very few parents pay school fees. He was shocked to hear that fewer than 5% of the school’s matric students go on to study further.

Both Deon and Dorian felt that their efforts to improve the school should begin with securing the safety of the learners, teachers and parents - because teachers cannot teach and learners cannot learn in an unsafe environment in which they are fearful.

‘’I approached a number of organisations, including Mediclinic, and one of my suppliers, TCM, sponsored funds towards installing a clear-view fence, as well as closing portion of the wall to keep the gangster activity out of the school,’’ says Deon.

The 3m fence was completed in February 2019 and with the learners and teachers “feeling much safer and at ease,” the duo turned their minds towards encouraging the learners to explore their career options. From this, the idea of a two-day career expo was borne. Through Mediclinic’s generous support, around 40 careers were showcased. Motivational speakers gave inspiring talks and goodie-bags sponsored by Mediclinic and its suppliers were handed out. Overall, 584 learners from Grades 9 to 12 benefitted from the expo.

‘’We focused on careers within Mediclinic. People often think that Mediclinic is purely an organisation in the medical and clinical environment and that we only have doctors and nurses. But we have most disciplines that every other large corporate has,’’ explained Deon.

The feedback received from the two-day event, based on the partners’ ‘Dare to Dream’ campaign, created an opportunity for job-shadowing stints for the learners.

 ‘’Our goal was to show them that there is hope. You can dare to dream, and even for students that may not have maths and science, there are opportunities for them too, ‘’ said Deon.

From a lucky draw hosted by a supplier the 2019 school fees of five students were covered.

‘’One of the students who was drawn had his mother come through to the school. She embraced the principal in tears because she had just lost her job and was a single parent. Just to see the impact that we can have on peoples’ lives and on these learners’ lives was immense,’’ he added.

Deon and Dorian have also organised an upgrade of the ICT lab and attracted a donation of chairs for the staff room.  They also arranged for the girls’ toilet block, which was in a terrible state of disrepair, to be extensively upgraded. In addition, Deon arranged for 11 educators to receive comprehensive CPR and first-aid training from ER24.

According to Deon, PfP has provided the springboard which will enable him to partner with Cloetesville High School for a number of years.

 ‘’What has been fantastic about the programme is that you’re networking with people, and I think it’s important to understand that principals are not there to be changed - they are there to be supported,’’ Deon explained.

Listen to Deon’s full interview with Gareth van Zyl here:

30 November -1, 00:00