Despite the lack of investment in the SA Fire Schools Project at the SA Fire and Medical Academy (Safma), founder Yusuf Allie still wants to encourage schools to book a training session for learners – and book early.
Safma is a facility providing training to companies to make them compliant with the Occupational Health and Safety Act. SA Fire Watch is an arm of the business that focuses on fire training. Based in Ottery, the academy also runs a day-long course for high school learners to equip them with life-saving knowledge of how to handle a fire.
A class of 20 learners from Sophumelela High School, in Samora Machel, completed the course on Thursday 24 October, after they were brought face-to-face with the scorching flames of an open fire.
A teacher at the school, Pumla Jacobs, said she tries to facilitate as many fire-awareness programmes as possible as it is important for learners from the informal settlement to know what to do in the event of a fire.
“There are always fires that burn down the houses there. Many children at the school are victims and survivors of the fires. So they need to do this training so they can be aware,” she said, adding that this information is especially valuable during the winter months when gas and fires are used more frequently for heating and cooking.
The course runs every Thursday and currently costs over R50 000 a month to make the training possible to the learners, who always report it being an enjoyable and informative experience.
The project, which is fully booked for the rest of the year, has had corporate social investment in recent years but that came to an end this year, forcing Allie to fund the project from the business.
While this does have an impact on his bottom-line, he said: “I will not disappoint the schools. I’m going to carry on with it.”
Daniel De Vries is one of the trainers who keeps the learners on their toes, putting them through their paces and taking them through fire simulations. He taught the learners the P.A.S.S. principle for using a fire extinguisher: Pull the pin, aim the nozzle and sweep the area of the fire side-to-side.
He told the learners to always stay calm and focus on the fire because “in any given situation, the most common factor is chaos.”
Allie said the nature of the training – by placing the learners in realistic simulations – will stick with the learners; forever burned in their memories. “Because of this interactive, joyful training, they will carry that knowledge with them into adulthood.”
Sphosethu Nomdova agreed with her peers, saying the training was informative and exciting. Referring to the maze that they had to navigate through, equipped with scorching fires to make the experience even more realistic, she noted: “It was very hot!”
Allie hopes that with restored investments from businesses, the project may one day be able to run independently and, one day, across the country.