Esigodini kids go digital

2009-02-24 00:00

What began as an idea years ago has materialised in just a matter of weeks. A new community centre in Esigodini opened its doors yesterday after construction began just three weeks ago.

The Siyabonga-Helping Hands for Africa Community Centre was created mainly to educate the children of the poverty-stricken community.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said René Risch, project leader and founder of the organisation.

“It’s a very emotional thing to see the product of all our hard work and energy.”

The centre is the latest development to come out of the organisation. About 420 pupils are being helped, not only in terms of schooling, but also in areas from health to housing.

Risch started the organisation in 2004 while working in the tourism industry. Many of his German clients promised to help after visiting the rural areas around Pietermaritzburg.

He gave the assurance that the centre would enhance the work of Siyabonga-Helping Hands for Africa in the community.

“This is the beginning of a big step in terms of our work in this community,” he said.

The showpiece of the community centre is its fully equipped computer classrooms, with 42 top-of-the-range notepad computers donated by Hewlett Packard (HP) and two digital white-boards sponsored by Smart Technology.

The computers will be used to teach the 240 pupils from neighbouring Esigodini Primary School and 180 more from Imbali who have been taken under the organisation’s wing.

“We want each of these children to get at least an hour’s training per day with the computers,” Risch said. “We’ve hired two teachers who will teach adult classes in the morning and the children after school.”

HP representative Damien Durrant said the community centre is a great opportunity for the company to become involved at a grassroots level and that it will continue to help with the project.

“We will see where it is possible to expand in this project — this is an opportunity to really empower disadvantaged people by giving them a first-class education,” Durrant added.

The centre also has a sewing room where sewing lessons will be held and a community hall equipped to screen educational films every Saturday.

Risch said the aim is to develop the Esigodini centre before starting similar projects.

And the next step? A fully stocked library, said Risch.

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