Touched by plight of pupils from poor homes, teacher goes extra mile to help them

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Sinenhlanhla Ntombela, a teacher at Ongkopotse Tiro Primary School in the west rand donated toiletry packs to pupils in need.
Sinenhlanhla Ntombela, a teacher at Ongkopotse Tiro Primary School in the west rand donated toiletry packs to pupils in need.
Supplied: Sinenhlanhla Ntombela
  • Sinenhlanhla Ntombela, a Gauteng teacher confronted by the daily challenges of her pupils from poor families, took to Twitter to ask for help to make their lives better.
  • She received overwhelming support from people who opened their wallets and hearts.
  • Ntombela ended up with hundreds of toiletries for her pupils.

Sinenhlanhla Ntombela, a 29-year-old teacher at Onkgopotse Tiro Primary School in at an informal settlement in Tshepisong, West Rand, is a teacher with a giant heart.

When she realised the dire conditions many of her pupils faced each day, Ntombela who teaches maths and life skills, embarked on a mission to collect toiletry packs for more than 500 pupils. 

READ | 100 mountain bikes donated to North West school so they can get to class easily

On May 24, she took to Twitter to spread awareness about the plight of her pupils. Her tweet reached hundreds of donors who opened their hearts and wallets to support her cause.

Ntombela has worked at the school for seven years and understood the plight of her pupils, but felt powerless to help until one of the pupils told her colleague that her parents couldn't afford to buy her toiletries. 

"One of the pupils in my class shared her problems with my colleague, who later shared the story with me. I didn't know what to do, but I could not move past what I had heard either. I considered buying a toiletry pack for her, but I knew she wasn't the only one who needed it," she said. 

Ntombela said some pupils were ashamed to open up about their need for toiletry packs and some were reluctant to accept them.

"I assured them they had no reason to feel ashamed or embarrassed because none of this is their fault," she said.

When Ntombela shared the tweet, she was thinking about the needs of girl children, especially adolescents.

She said:

I later realised that we tend to forget our boy children. I had a number of them ask me for bath soaps and toothbrushes. These children don't have much. Their parents are either unemployed or earn very little. Covid-19 made the situation even worse than it was.

Ntombela met donors at various collection points, including Midrand and Roodepoort. "I preferred that donors courier items because that would have been the most convenient and safest option for me, but it wasn't always for them. I had a male friend accompany me to collection appointments because I worried about my safety when meeting strangers," she said.

This cost her time and money, and one donor helped her cover the financial cost.

"There is this one donor I met at Clearwater Mall. He donated items worth R5 000 and gave me R350 cash for petrol," she said. 

A few donors transferred money into her account. 

The packs were distributed during a charity event hosted at the school on June 10.

Ntombela, who keeps sanitary pads in her car for any pupils who need them, hopes to formalise her initiative and reach more children who need toiletry packs.

Ntombela, who is from Soweto, said being a teacher has always been her passion.

Readers who wish to donate can message her on Twitter

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