In a serendipitous way, Mandela Day directed Dr Jefrey Pilusa, a JG Afrika Associate and engineer, back to Maseke Primary School, near Phalaborwa, where as a young boy, he gathered with classmates around a blackboard under a tree. It was a joyous occasion when Pilusa arrived bearing bags of groceries collected by the firm’s Johannesburg staff on Mandela Day 2019.
He also personally contributed three gas-burner stoves towards the school’s feeding programme. This initiative will greatly assist the school to operate the programme provide food for more than 700 learners.
The situation at Maseke Primary School has improved dramatically since Pilusa was a leaner there more than 30 years ago. Now there is a school building with proper classrooms, access to grid electricity and water from a dedicated borehole, yet there is still more to be done to raise standards to bring it in line with other primary schools in the country.
“Worryingly, there are only a few flushing toilets for staff, while leaners have to use pit latrines. This lack of the most basic sanitary requirements must be extremely demotivating, especially for the young female learners. The school also does not have a library, science and technology laboratories nor sports and recreational facilities,” Pilusa says.
Unfortunately, most of the learners from the Maseke village, a notoriously poor and under serviced area of Limpopo, still endure the same hardships that Pilusa did when he was still a learner.
They also have to walk over long distances and in unfavourable weather conditions to school without shoes or school uniforms.
These conditions, combined with hunger and having to share drinking water with animals from a communal borehole pumped sump, were extremely demotivating for the young Pilusa who almost decided to forego his education as early as Grade 2.
It is inevitable that many of the learners at Maseke Primary School feel the very same way, and Pilusa has, therefore, taken it upon himself to inspire these young learners by sharing his success story with them.
“Importantly, these youngsters need hope for the future to persevere in extremely challenging circumstances. Having experienced the reality of poverty, I can relate well to their current situation. I know exactly what they are going through and they, in turn, feel a connection with me,” he says.
Meanwhile, Pilusa believes that more could be done to significantly raise standards at the school over the long term. His suggestions have been well received by headmaster, Malesa, who will motivate them to the Limpopo Department of Education for possible implementation.
For example, he has proposed the installation of a fully-equipped containerised solar-powered library, as well as a science and technology laboratory, where students could receive hands-on tuition to equip them for new-age technology.
Pilusa has also suggested that the school consider implementing a flushing toilet system that is integrated into an anaerobic digester to convert solid waste into biogas for cooking. The system can also be used to produce compost and struvite for the school’s gardens as part of an initiative that will also support practical training in sustainable resource use and renewable energy.
JG Afrika applauds Pilusa on his initiative to inspire young people by telling them of his own journey from poverty to success, from hopelessness to unlimited potential, both professionally and in life in general.