Unsung heroes: Port Elizabeth principals, parents and community at forefront of food distribution efforts at their schools

The principals of Sapphire Road Primary and Enqileni Senior Primary say that the distribution of much-needed food parcels to learners and families has brought parents and community members closer to their schools.

The two PE schools received a total of 300 food parcels during May in a food relief drive led by education and leadership NPO, Symphonia for South Africa (SSA), together with Pick n Pay’s Feed the Nation campaign.

SSA is an NPO founded to mobilise active citizenship around the significant issues facing South Africa. This is achieved by enabling cross-sectoral collaboration, incubating thought leadership and initiating future-focused programmes to facilitate nation-building. As an internationally recognised and award-winning social enterprise, SSA is supported by many dedicated individuals who generously contribute their money, time and skills. This support has enabled the organisation to engage collaboratively with multiple stakeholders in the private, public and civil society sectors.

After the lockdown was announced in late March, SSA initiated the Food 4 Hungry Children project with the purpose of capturing data on the food needs of learners from its network of over 1,000 school principals. The NPO’s flagship programme, Partners for Possibility (PfP), pairs principals from under-resourced schools with business leaders who work with them to reignite community participation in schools as a collaborative investment in the future of education. Pick n Pay’s recently launched Feed the Nation campaign is helping communities that are struggling to feed themselves during the lockdown.

Sapphire Road Primary’s principal, Alicia Baatjes, says that although parents were already very much involved in the school’s activities, the food parcel distribution became a way to cement the relationship between the school and its parents and community members.

‘’One of our main challenges was identifying the learners in need from the school. The parents and some community leaders helped out with this.

“We received 200 food parcels from Symphonia and Pick n Pay, but we couldn’t just distribute them to families in Booysen Park, the area where the school is located. Again, the parents and community leaders helped to ensure that the parcels were divided fairly for distribution to surrounding areas. They also helped with the actual distribution. They were so coordinated, despite all the difficulties they faced.

“The parents and community leaders definitely took the lead. The distribution of food parcels really brought them closer to the school.’’

Baatjes also mentioned that this collective effort had inspired principals from neighbouring schools to do the same for their learners.

‘’Word about what we were doing got out quickly. I soon had other principals ask me about how they could do something similar.’’

At Enqileni Senior Primary in Motherwell, the involvement of its School Governing Body (SGB) ensured that the 100 donated food parcels were delivered to needy learners and families. Like Sapphire Road Primary, Enqileni is fortunate to already have strong ties with its parents and community.

Enqileni’s Principal, Vuyiswa Nzube, said: ‘’It was a really good day. Our SGB was thrilled to be part of this.

“One of my SGB parents is a member of the local Community Policing Forum. That was really helpful because they ensured that everyone involved was kept safe on the day.”

Nzube also pointed out that the food distribution at her school has produced some unexpected benefits.

‘’I’m part of school safety WhatsApp group. Many principals have complained that their schools have been vandalised during the lockdown.

“I’m so relieved to say that my school is still intact because my parents have actually stepped up to protect the school. It is amazing.’’

Both principals completed the 12-month PfP programme in March 2020.












30 November -1, 00:00