In 2004 when BEFSA was launched our aim was the construction of extended schools in the poorest areas in Southern Africa. Upon completion these schools would have facilities for learning plus health clinics, early years and child care facilities and discrete and shared spaces for adult education/community classes.
Difficulties in securing funding has meant that we have had to lower our ambitions and move from a strategy of development to one which is essentially about the repair and maintenance of school buildings. Included in this work however, has been the important focus we have placed on the provision of improved teaching and learning environments and improved sanitation facilities for staff and children in schools in South Africa
We have also acted where the local authorities have not been slow to respond to provide emergency accommodation quickly following major fires or severe storms (tornadoes).
One such example was Gcato Secondary School near Alice in the Eastern Cape where the major part of its buildings was destroyed in a fire. With help from a local timber mill which provided the timber, BEFSA worked alongside the local community to rebuild a temporary school.
It was a huge task for all involved. Whilst BEFSA and the community worked hard to rebuild the school, lessons had to take place outside until the work was completed.
Each November and December parts of the Eastern Cape are hit by powerful tornadoes. The damage ranges from schools with gaping holes where the roofs had once been to whole schools being swept away as a result of the severe storms and the flimsy construction of the school buildings. In these cases BEFSA has repaired roofs at a number of schools but sadly had insufficient funding to do much more.
In addition to the work we do to repair schools following fires and severe weather we are regularly asked to assist with minor repairs to school buildings. These include new doors and windows, the installation of security grills, the provision of glass for broken windows and the painting of classrooms.
A special focus for BEFSA is the replacement or upgrading of staff and student toilets. In many primary schools there is either an absence of student toilets or a situation where the toilets are unfit for use on health and safety grounds.
There can be no doubt that the work we do to repair school buildings have improved the school and the lives of the teachers and children working in them.
Our before and after pictures of the old and new facilities
Before: 1 single toilet, unfit for use
After: 8 brand new, working toilets