Coachlines - December 2022

15.12.22 Liveryman Andrew Blatherwick

Building schools in South African townships

In November this year I once again visited Cape Town South Africa to build schools in the Township of Khayelitsha with the Mellon Educate Charity, writes Liveryman Andrew Blatherwick. The “Building Blitz” is a one-week experience of a lifetime that quickly becomes an annual event for many of our volunteers, this is now the fourth year I have done it.

On 12th November 254 volunteers arrived in Cape Town to build 13 classrooms, two toilet blocks, two kitchens, four covered areas and two playgrounds in the Khayelitsha township one of the largest and poorest in Africa with more than 2.5 million residents all living in tin shacks with no running water or toilets and very overcrowded schools and classrooms. In the Injongo school that I worked in they have 1,200 pupils with average class sizes of 75 pupils per class.

These children are very proud and desperate to go to school and learn. Injongo won the 2022 National School Choir of the Year competition, and I can testify they are amazing. They may have nothing, but they have huge hearts and determination to improve their lives. With the work that we did the class sizes will almost halve. The children will eat their school lunch, prepared in the new kitchen, sitting at a table and under cover from the sun for the first time. They will be able to use a proper toilet for the first time and play on swings, slides and in the play area for the first time. I also had the amazing opportunity to work with one young child in the literacy centre helping her read and write. She was very shy when I first met her, but we are now lifelong friends.

The Building Blitz week is one of the most emotional and rewarding weeks in my life. It is hard work but also great fun. For anyone who has never worked on a building site with a large group of Irish people before, you would not stop laughing from the moment you arrive until the moment you leave. That is apart from the times you are crying with emotion from what you have achieved and seeing the children so grateful for your help. Whilst we work in a very dangerous area of South Africa, it is very safe. We have police and armed guards taking us onto the site in buses and back out at the end of the day when we return to a very nice hotel in Cape Town where, as you can imagine we have the odd drink and relax ready for the next day.

This link will show you a short video of the Blitz 2022 narrated by volunteers, teachers and children