What better way is there to celebrate a successful work year than at a relaxing year-end event? Getting together with one’s colleagues and sharing a meal while taking the opportunity to express gratitude and appreciation to one another is ordinarily the perfect way to cap off a work year. However, for the Information Communication Technology (ICT) team at South African ICMIF member AVBOB, 2020 was an extraordinary year and it called for an extraordinary ending.
The ICT department played a vital role in ensuring business continuity during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent nationwide lockdown. The department worked tirelessly to solve the problems that arose as a result of the pandemic and this meant that they had to be aware of the effects of the pandemic not just in the workplace but in other areas of importance, such as local communities.
When the time came for ICT to discuss the best way to celebrate the year-end, one suggestion stood out and was ultimately favoured by all: in light of the challenges that were unfolding because of the pandemic, the team voted to donate the money allocated for its year-end function to a worthy cause. The cause that was ultimately chose was Alma School in Pretoria – a school that offers education and training to children with intellectual and physical disabilities – and their urgent need for a computer classroom was a problem that the ICT team was uniquely able to solve.
The school’s vision – to guide and enable learners with intellectual and physical challenges to live with dignity – touched the hearts of the ICT team. The school employs a team of professional and dedicated staff members who not only care about the learners but ensure that the school operates competently and all resources donated to the school are well managed.
A computer studies class for the school would be no easy feat, as ensuing visits to the school showed the scale of the work that needed to be completed. Computer lessons offered at the school are vital as they not only assist with the development of the younger children by introducing them to technology, but also equip the older children with administration and IT skills that they can use later in their lives, as a means of income.
The problem with the school’s computer classroom was the size of the space. The school had two very small and inadequately furnished computer classes. Wheelchairs could not gain access to the classroom, which meant that children who use wheelchairs had to either sit in front of the class – making it impossible for their classmates to gain access to the smart boards at the front, or miss the class completely. Children using walking aids were restricted to a few seats in front of the class, as the rest of the desks were not accessible to them.
When the AVBOB ICT team notified the school about its intention to donate funds, they identified a room large enough to fit 20 pupils with ease. A lot of work was required in order to convert the room into a fully equipped computer lessons classroom. This included the laying and installation of network cabling and installing network cabinets. A carpet in the classroom required deep cleaning, the walls required a fresh coat of paint, and finally, the old, dilapidated wooden floors needed a proper facelift.
Fortunately, the network cabling was done using AVBOB’s own resources, and Chris Keetse (Network and Technical Support) and William Kekae (Network and Technical Support) expertly and remarkably completed the network installation. The team purchased resources for the rest of the refurbishment services while the school staff provided additional assistance, such as the painting.
On Thursday 6 May 2021, AVBOB’s ICT department was overjoyed to attend the official unveiling of the classroom. Each member of the team reported that it was a truly wonderful moment to finally see the beautiful new classroom that can now properly accommodate the learners. The school principal, Mr Pietman Swanepoel emotionally expressed gratitude for the work that was accomplished. “AVBOB is known by the saying – We’re Here for You and now today, we can really feel that AVBOB is here for us.”
As a way to leave a lasting message for the learners, the ICT team designed a plaque that was fixed to the classroom entrance that reads: “NO FEAR, NO LIMITS, NO EXCUSES, BELIEVE” in the hope that those words will provide inspiration for the learners to work hard towards achieving their dreams.
Education and literacy have always been very important for AVBOB and in 2012 the mutual formally established the AVBOB Foundation as the channel for the company’s Corporate Social Investment (CSI) initiatives. The Foundation’s primary focus is on literacy and as such, it has been spearheading the building of schools and libraries, as well as becoming a significant patron of the arts.
A highlight of the Foundation’s initiatives is the AVBOB Container Library Project. The project commenced in 2013, when the first library was donated to a primary school in Tembisa, Gauteng, South Africa. These libraries are constructed from refurbished shipping containers and are equipped with solar panels (capable of powering computers and lights), wooden laminated floors, bookshelves, a blackboard, tables and chairs and approximately 3,000 new books. The project was a runaway success and was subsequently increased to 60 libraries pledged to the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to be delivered over a nine-year period.
AVBOB believes that education is a societal issue, and the container library project will have a long-lasting positive impact on the lives of thousands of young learners. The project has already benefitted communities across South Africa and positioned AVBOB as a strategic partner to the DBE.
Earlier in 2021, reading and learning at the Isiphethu Semfundo Primary School received a boost after the AVBOB Foundation proudly handed over a trolley library worth ZAR 45 000 to the school. The school is the recipient of the trolley library stocked with over 500 books as a corporate social investment initiative. The handover ceremony took place on Tuesday 23 March.
Alongside AVBOB Commercial Director Mr Deno Pillay and other AVBOB staff, community members closely affiliated with the school attended the event which heralded the start of a brighter chapter in the learners’ educational development.
Mrs Philipine Nene, the school’s principal was delighted with the donation: “Everyone at the school is absolutely overjoyed; this is a golden opportunity for our learners – who are already passionate about reading – to learn new things. From then on, the sky is the limit!” she said. “These brand-new books are exactly what was needed to enrich the learners’ learning experience, since literacy is a fundamental building block in their development,” she said.
Mrs Nene expressed gratitude to the AVBOB Foundation. “The school is based in a rural area and one of the challenges that our learners faced is the limited supply of books. We have had to rotate the same learning material from one learner to another. So, we are thankful to AVBOB for reaching underprivileged communities through the AVBOB Foundation! We hope that you keep up the good work,” said Mrs Nene.
Mr Vusi Khathi, AVBOB Provincial Manager for KZN, believes that the school has earned the donation due to their dedication to produce top quality learners. “I am proud to be associated with a school that deserves recognition for their performance and accomplishments. Schools such as Isiphethu Sempfundo Primary School are the reason we at AVBOB were inspired to create trolley libraries and it is our hope that this library will instil a deep and continued culture of reading within the learners.”
This story is based on articles by Joanne van Greunen & Bridgette Sekati of AVBOB from the July edition of AVBOB’s staff magazine Die Onderling and the story is shared with their kind permission.
Photo shows: The container library donation to the Isiphethu Semfundo Primary School. Mr T. Ndaba (Circuit Manager: KZN Dept of Education); Miss P. Gazu (AVBOB Key Account Manager); Mrs P. Nene (Headmistress: Isiphethu Semfundo Primary School); Mr V. Khathi (AVBOB KZN Provincial Manager)