From Sweden, with love

2012-04-12 00:00

ALONG the R614, somewhere between Wartburg and Tongaat in a village called Appelsbosch, is a little school with children excitedly filling their new classrooms with furniture and learning tools, its space providing them with newfound hope of a better future.

“A Swedish businessperson and a local farmer made a plan,” said the project manager, Louis Freese, summing up how Inqolayolwazi Senior Primary School in Appelsbosch was able to add three new classrooms to the school.

It was a project during which the “invisible barriers of the past were broken”, said Freese.

“The project created good vibes, a feeling of goodwill and the desire to help people in need. If this is what ubuntu is then I want to carry on being a part of it. It is essential for the future of our country.”

Along with his wife, Edna, Louis runs a guest farm in Appelsbosch, where they often work with groups of foreigners, mostly from Sweden.

“Pupils aged 17 or 18 years come to learn about South Africa, and visit the local schools for a few days — Mthuli High School in the Ozwathini district and Inqolayolwazi Senior Primary in Appelsbosch,” said Edna.

“We have been supporting these two schools and a crèche for many years, with projects and money donated by Swedes. The original contact was made because my husband’s aunt and Swedish husband (a missionary) were banned from South Africa in the sixties because of their vociferous objection to the apartheid government. They had been working at the Swedish Mission in Appelsbosch.

In November last year, an adult group from Sweden visited their farm. A businessperson, who owns the company Hydroscand, Björn Holmström, was so touched by the overcrowding and poverty visible at school that he offered to donate money for a classroom to be built as a solution to the problematic situation of 60 children per classroom, sometimes with five pupils per desk.

Said Holmström: “My wife and I were impressed by the spirit of the teachers and pupils. They won over my heart.”

Louis offered to oversee this project so that the money would be spent wisely and, after consulting with the principal, Sylvia Bonisiwe Chamane, it was apparent that one classroom would not suffice to alleviate the problems that the school faced. Together, the Freeses approached the community for aid and were surprised by the heart-warming response. With Holmström doubling his contribution and various philanthropists donating money, time and materials, the project was extended and with R300 000, three classrooms were built for the school, with one having a movable partition in the middle so that it can be converted into a hall if necessary.

Chamane, who has been the principal for over 10 years, said: “The Freese family adopted us as a school, and for that we are extremely grateful.”

However, like many other such schools, the school is still low on resources and is currently working towards a equiping the school with a computer room.

“I am a strong believer in education, and believe education is the fundamental base for developing and making a country prosperous,” said Holmström. “I want to continue being involved and making this school the best in the country, and see how the kids fulfil the dreams that they have for the future.”

To assist, the Department of Education donated 200 desks and chairs to the school to ensure that the new classrooms are used to their optimum.

Department of Education spokesperson Jennifer Baiju said: “The Department of Education welcomes and appreciates the partnership that exists between itself, [Holmström], the Lutheran Church and the Freese family. In fact, this is an example of ensuring that the strategic goals of the [department] are realised.”

Baiju urged the community to take full ownership of the school and its new classrooms, and to report any person who seeks to vandalise the school.

Holmström sees the school as an ongoing project, and plans to renovate the library and build a walkway from the bottom classrooms up to the new building that includes steps.

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