Mam’ Pinky puts a smile on rural Eastern Cape pupils

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Ntombekhaya Tsako, known as Mam’ Pinky, is working hard to keep pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds in school. Photo: Supplied
Ntombekhaya Tsako, known as Mam’ Pinky, is working hard to keep pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds in school. Photo: Supplied

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To fight absenteeism at schools, which normally leads to pupils dropping out, Ntombekhaya Tsako is working hard to keep children from disadvantaged areas in school by making sure they have proper school uniform.

A survey conducted by the National Income Dynamics Study- Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey found that the school dropout rate had tripled from 230 000 pupils in pre-pandemic times to 750 000 in May 2021.

Tsako (61), from Tuku B village in Peddie in the Eastern Cape, who is known as Mam’ Pinky, is passionate about helping the less fortunate as she knows how it feels to grow up disadvantaged.

Mam’ Pinky has so far donated more than 1 000 pairs of shoes to deserving pupils from rural schools in the province.

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South Africans got to know about her in 2019 through a social media post in which she was swearing at an ex-boyfriend, threatening to expose his ways, which went viral and became a Tik Tok challenge.

She is also known for her motivational videos and funny voice notes.

She said when she turned 60 in December 2020, she told her friends not to buy her designer bags or expensive gifts, but to rather buy a pair of shoes for pupils from disadvantaged areas. Tsako said:

When I got the shoes from my friends in 2020, my first stop was JK Zondi Primary School in Gqeberha, where I did my sub-A (Grade 1) in 1967. I donated about 60 pairs of shoes and also blackboards.

“I then went to Msenge Primary School, which I adopted in 2007 when Springbok captain Siya Kolisi was still a pupil, and donated 100 pairs of shoes,” she said.

Mam’ Pinky said she realised that a number of pupils did not have proper school uniform and would often bunk school as a result.

“I decided to register a non-profit organisation called #60walkachildtoschoolfoundation. The aim was to make sure that no child misses out on school for not having proper uniform.” She said: 

I know the pain of watching other children going to school on rainy days and you can’t because you don’t have a pair of shoes.

Mam Pinky said she sought to restore the dignity of pupils by handing over the school shoes.

“I have chosen to distribute shoes to schools during the month of March as the country is celebrating human rights. I believe that we have to do our part as community members to make sure that nothing stops the children from going to school as it is their right to get education. So far I have donated about 1 100 pairs of shoes to deserving children in the rural villages of Eastern Cape.”

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She said the pupils were often identified by their principals.

“The school principals identify the less fortunate pupils in their schools and send me the list. I can’t explain how it feels to see them smile as they get their shoes. It is not just about me donating shoes to these children, but having proper school uniform also helps them to concentrate better in class as this builds their self-esteem,” she said.


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