Rene Roman lives on

2019-02-26 06:01
Zonray Lewis and Callam Abrahams with Etienne Bason of the Eartchild Project at the official opening of the library. PHOTOS: TIYESE JERANJI

Zonray Lewis and Callam Abrahams with Etienne Bason of the Eartchild Project at the official opening of the library. PHOTOS: TIYESE JERANJI

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It was a bittersweet moment at Levana Primary School in Lavender Hill as the Levana Primary Rene Roman School Library was officially opened last week Tuesday.

The official opening of the library with over 4000 books currently, plus three computers for learners and one for the librarian, is fully equipped with Wi-Fi and broadband. It has round tables and colourful stools for the learners. The library was established through the school’s partnerships with the Albert Wessels Trust, School Aid UK, The Bookery, Waterfront Rotary Club and the Learning in Reach non-profit organisation.

The library was built in memory of Rene Roman, a learner at the school who was raped and killed by a neighbour in March 2017. The accused was convicted and sentenced to two life sentences in the Western Cape High Court.

Although the day was a painful reminder of what happened to the learner, who was in Grade 6 at the time of her death, most found comfort in the fact that her death was not in vain. All those who attend the school will learn about her legacy and know the reason for the building’s existence.

School principal Andre Lamprecht said it was a privilege and an honour to officially open the library. “[Today] we have an opportunity to turn a tragedy into a happy moment. She (Rene) was a learner at our school and she loved reading; she hoped that one day she will become a teacher. Though it might be painful for us, we say the sky is the limit for us here at Levana. We are able to do all these things through the partnerships,” he said.

Rene’s mother Chrissandre Jacobs said that although she can’t put the loss of her child into words, it brings comfort that her legacy will live on. “I hope that this library will inspire a lot of children to read. I feel very proud of what she left behind. I want everyone that comes into this library to leave inspired. It has not been an easy journey but the help I got from friends and family has kept me going,” she said.

The guest speaker at the official opening was Professor Jonathan Jansen who said reading makes the difference between poverty and success.

“You will thank your teachers one day. I don’t care how poor you are, I don’t care how little you have, just believe you can. In our communities our children have an equal chance of getting a degree and getting shot. The notion of burning little things like libraries must stop. We are taking away from our own children,” he said.

Jansen thanked the school principal (Lamprecht) for building partnerships. “Thank you for having partnerships. Very few principals care. With all that you’re doing you’re giving our children a sense of hope again. When I see these kinds of things I have hope again. Keep pressing on.”

Turning to the teachers, Jansen said teachers must always remember that a child’s performance or what a child does depends on what a teacher does. “Treat every child with respect. You’re the adult, don’t ‘klap’ a child, a child will react on how you treat them. Let our children be who they are. Transformation is about being able to learn with people different than you in speech, look and other things,” he said.

Some of the attending guests then took to the podium one after the other.

Albert Wessels a trustee from the Albert Wessels Trust, said he hopes Lamprecht gets the world recognition he deserves because of all the work he is doing at the school, and the Lavender Hill community is incredibly lucky to have him. He also said the learners at the school and those to come will learn about Rene.

Peter Venn from Windlab Developments South Africa said that when he first arrived at the school about three years ago there was no fence and where the library stands was a just dust bowl. “When I got here there was no hope. There was no fence, no security, and to encourage learners to read in these circumstances is nearly impossible. Andre comes to school every day, he has to deal with learners getting shot, children getting shot in front of the school gate. The difference you’re making is enormous and we thank and applaud you for that,” said Venn.

Representing the Western Cape Education Department was Granville Stander who said that as much as people were in joy, they cannot forget that a life was taken from the community. “When I shook the mother’s hand, you can still feel the pain and the anguish. No matter the pain, we must remember that Rene was born not to fit in but to stand out, and (today) she stands in the form of this library,” he said. 

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