A former call centre agent turned teacher at an impoverished Cape Town school has helped connect his pupils to the future.
He has tapped into his connection with his former employer to help get Delft South Primary School’s empty media lab up and running.
Thabo Mayosi is the driving force behind the initiative, which has seen 20 computers being handed over by National Debt Advisors (NDA), where he had worked as a lead generator while studying psychology through Unisa.
Mayosi, from Khayelitsha, has since completed his studies as well as his post-graduate certificate in education.
Last year, he was appointed as a Grade 5 teacher at the school, which is situated in one of Cape Town’s poorest neighbourhoods.
The school, which at the time was only a few months old, had a computer lab but no computers.
Mayosi then reached out to NDA CEO Sebastien Alexanderson via social media to set up a lunch meeting to discuss the difficulties facing the school.
“Within two months, we had 10 computers,” he said.
On Wednesday, Alexanderson and his team returned with another 10.
An elated Mayosi, who wants to be a “catalyst for inclusive education”, said the sponsorship would help the children connect to a world in which computer literacy was essential to getting ahead.
“Education is an investment that gives you the best interest rate. For these kids, it will open doors to a world that currently seems to be closed to them.
“And then one day, they will come back to Delft and develop it to become a drug and gangsterism free society.”
School principal Fikiswa Maqubela praised Mayosi for using his own initiative to approach corporate partners to get their empty lab up and running.
She hoped to see her pupils, as a result, “think wider and out of the box”.
“If they don’t learn how to use these computers, they will be confined to Delft. We want to take them out of here and introduce them to the world,” Maqubela said.
But connecting them to opportunities was another hurdle, she added. The school does not have Wi-Fi.
Maqubela has to dig into the already close to empty school coffers to buy at least 1GB of data per day so that administrative staff can do their jobs.
She said she had been writing to the Western Cape education department for two years and despite plenty of promises, the school was still not connected to the web.
Maqubela lamented the fact that tablets given to them “a long time ago” by the department had never been set up.
“The department said they would come and connect it for us and give us everything that we need. The tablets were with us for five years [and nothing was done],” she said.
The no-fee school – which raises money by hosting civvies days where most children are unable to pay the R2 cost – had to fork out about R5,000 last year to pay a service provider to activate the devices so that the pupils could use it.
“We thought that we have got these things, but they are not in use. What is the point? So the school took its initiative,” Maqubela said.
Department spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said Delft South Primary had a 10Mbps fibre link before it relocated to its current site, a few hundred metres away.
“Because of the cost implications in moving a fibre link, it was felt that the service should remain at the new school, Essenhout Primary, which is now occupying Delft South Primary’s old building. As a result, a totally new service had to be negotiated for Delft South Primary. This is under way,” she added.
While proud of the school’s improved computer lab, Maqubela said the building housed two other “white elephants” – a library without books and a music room with no instruments.
She called on people to assist the pupils in furnishing these facilities.
Alexanderson said that as a foreigner who has lived in the country for seven years, he was frustrated by the lack of basic resources to help young people become computer literate.
“Every week, we interview hundreds of people. The majority of them don’t have basic computer skills. Because of that, they can’t be considered for even a regular customer service position.”
Alexanderson has also started an organisation called South African Leaders of Tomorrow through which he hopes to help disadvantaged schools, encouraging other corporates to follow suit.
“We have a responsibility toward our children in school. We need to be knocking on doors, and breaking down barriers to ensure that they are given the best education possible. Government structures have limitations and funds are limited – but we cannot let that be our excuse for not doing anything. Apathy is our enemy.”
Mayosi said despite the challenges facing the school, he was blessed to work with his pupils.
“I see how severely disadvantaged they are, yet they remain so eager to learn. Things that are sometimes taken for granted at other schools require much attention and encouragement here,” he added.
“Poverty, substance abuse and excessive social ills are the order of the day in this area, but that does not mean that our children do not deserve the best education we can give them. I am grateful to have worked for a boss like Seb. Many people talk the talk – he actually walks the walk.”