NEEDY pupils from Joe Slovo Primary School in KwaDwesi, Port Elizabeth have been given a much-needed boost just in time for the new school year.Representatives of Nelson Mandela Bay’s largest shopping centre, Baywest Mall, visited the primary school early on Wednesday, January 25, to hand over R50 000 worth of new school shoes to 500 underprivileged pupils.The donation, which was coordinated by the mall’s corporate social investment partner Love Story, formed part of a larger national investment by mall owners Rebosis Property Fund. Rebosis, which is South Africa’s largest black-owned JSE-listed property group, has taken steps to support education countrywide by providing R200 000 worth of school shoes at the start of the new school year.Baywest Mall general manager Troy Zunckel said shoes had been purchased to fit the shoe size and gender of the pupils identified as most needy by the school and community leaders. The children also received lunchboxes from Pep Stores at Baywest Mall.“Eradicating poverty starts with giving children hope and opportunities in life,” said Zunckel. “For Baywest Mall, as part of the Rebosis group, we are committed to supporting educational initiatives as a means to promoting sustainable economic development in our region.”Joe Slovo Primary was founded in 2003 after local residents recognised the need for a school in this impoverished area.With an unemployment rate of over 80% among the school’s parents and a number of pupils being raised in child-headed households, Love Story’s Elaine Watson said many of the children were in dire need.“School shoes can have a real and positive impact on young children. Not having to walk to school barefoot can indirectly affect their school attendance and, in effect, their whole education,” said Watson.According to Rebosis marketing manager Deborah Bailey, providing school shoes is a tangible and practical solution, giving relief to the children – many of whom are forced to walk long distances barefoot to school each day.“As part of our social and ethical mandate, Rebosis Property Fund has recognised an overwhelming need to contribute positively to communities surrounding its shopping centres,” said Bailey.She said each of Rebosis’s four major malls – Forest Hill City in Centurion, Baywest Mall in Port Elizabeth, and Hemingways Mall and Mdantsane City in East London – had carefully selected their beneficiary schools according to need within their respective communities.