Thank you for sponsoring child(ren) from Vhutshilo Mountain School (VMS). This has been a particularly challenging year for us financially. South Africa is going through an economic slump and the drought has wreaked havoc in the Limpopo region; the price of foodstuffs has shot up and local villagers who were managing to get by are now joining the ranks of the poor. Without your financial assistance, the school would not be able to ensure that our vulnerable children receive an excellent early education, two nutritious meals and a fruit snack daily, as well as transportation to and from school.
VMS also assists with accessing social grants, and often the teachers notice physical or mental issues at an early age so we can help the parent/guardian to receive the proper help. Whenever we are able, we supplement our most needy families’ meager meals with surplus fresh vegetables from our garden. The need continues to grow. So thank you for your consideration and your continued support. Your sacrifice makes an enormous difference in the lives of these vulnerable children!
The school has already enrolled 71 children this year and the need for quality preschool education in the Limpopo Province continues to grow. My two young, enthusiastic and dedicated teachers have both received excellent training at Thusanang Trust (accredited pre-school training in Limpopo). Terry, our Thusang instructor, gave us a resource list of educational games and supplies to enhance the VMS teaching experience. Thanks to a grant from HFL we were able to purchase the suggested puzzles, dolls, blocks, sand toys, peg boards, hula hoops, felt boards, bats, balls, scooters and other educational toys as well as a carpet to cover the cold cement in the ‘Babies’ room.
We are pleased to note that the number of paying students is growing as more middle class families in our area want to give their children a good basic start before they go to their local schools, however, this is not sufficient. VMS only just breaks even and depending on our assorted needs, at times we fall short. Unfortunately we have lost some of our past sponsors which has put us into a shortfall. Thankfully HFL has picked up 10 sponsorships this year but they continue to look for assistance so please tell your friends that sponsorships are available!
The good news is that our paying children not only help cross subsidise the vulnerable children, but they help to break the stigma and discrimination connected to the HIV+ virus which is still so rife in this rural area. Sadly, Oxfam Australia is pulling out of S.A. in March and as they funded our gardeners, the outreach field workers and a large portion of Khathu and my salaries, it is essential that the school manages to pay for itself. HFL continues to help us to find grants and funding to alleviate our financial burden. We are still searching!
But lets talk about the joys: The children are divided into 3 classes: ‘Babies’ who are cared for by various staffers while our two trained teachers have a ‘Toddler’ and ‘Preschool’ class each. The children are both a joy and a privilege and continue to enrich our lives!
We are loath to take on more staff until the school is more financially stable, and possible retrenchment is no longer a threat. Though we would love to accept additional children who are in need of schooling, we are walking a fine line and are careful not to exceed our limit which would surely jeopardize our entire operation.The school has a vibrant SGB (School Governing Body) which is a good mix of parents/guardians of the vulnerable children and those of the paying ones. At a meeting next month we will be discussing a possible increase in the school fees as the cost of living has increased drastically over the past few months. This will not affect the sponsors as with the current exchange rate the fees are already more than what the locals pay in rand.
The school has an excellent reputation: this we know from the sudden influx of paying students and feedback from the primary schools where they excel. A real success story is our “box” baby who spent his first few months in a large cardboard box in the school kitchen. Last year he won a scholarship to attend a really good private school and in all his “exams” came top of his grade out of 281 students !! At 6 years of age he spends his leisure time teaching English to his small neighbours in the village and VMS makes sure he has plenty of paper, pencils and a stack of chalk slates. His sponsor from Scotland has continued with his sponsorship even though he has left VMS, and this assists with school uniforms and transport as the school is far from his home.
Our little ones excel not only academically: Last year they competed in a singing competition winning 1st prize, and took second place in a traditional dance competition. I hope you can visualize these tiny moppets, dressed in their unique shorts, skirts and t/shirts made from the Venda clothe, singing and dancing their hearts out. It’s always an exciting day for all when the taxi arrives and the children climb in with their buckets of food and cold drinks.
On Graduation Day, the tent is filled to the brim with parents, guardians, guests , children and their siblings (approx 250 in all). The crowd is wonderstruck when a four year old child steps forward and says in perfect English, “Welcome everybody to our Graduation party. Feel free and enjoy the day “. This is followed by dramas, dancing and singing and the handing over of certificates to our young gowned and capped students. Families join in with much wailing and dancing. This is surely a sight to behold and a fitting end to a year full of challenges, accomplishments, heartache, laughter and always love. We unfailingly hold you in our hearts on these gratifying occasions for you have helped to make them possible.
I am privileged and blessed to be part of the dedicated and loyal team that makes such a HUGE difference in the lives of a few of our children. Without your ongoing support, this would not be possible. Thank you.
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