I’ve learnt that you can make a difference. Running the initiative: ‘Together with Toughees’ was a chance to do something rewarding. As part of normal Bata Life, the toughest challenge for us was deciding which school to help.

Dave Lloyd, Toughees Brand Manager
Like all countries on the continent, South Africa struggles with chronic poverty and unemployment. Added to this, about one in nine South Africans are infected with HIV, meaning millions of children are orphaned or step into parental roles for their siblings when they lose one or both parents. Of a total population of just over 50 million, about 30% are school going age. However, with so many pressing needs, government funding for schools is insufficient.

Finding the school and the project

‘Toughees is the biggest children’s shoe brand in South Africa,’ describes Dave. ‘We’ve produced and sold over 4 million pairs. As Nelson Mandela said, ‘Winning nations are educated nations’ and with this brand, we feel close to education here. Generation after generation have gone to school wearing Toughees and, as a brand, we wanted to give something back.’

The opportunity to do just this came when Dave launched a competition for one South African school to win a $43,000 donation for facilities. ‘We asked South Africans to nominate a school that deserved an upgrade. The response we got, was truly overwhelming.’

Based on selection criteria, Brookdale Primary, on the outskirts of Durban was eventually chosen, ultimately because it was widely recognised as a beacon of excellence and cherished by the poor community in which it operates.

Providing a solid foundation

‘When we spent some time at the school and with the headmaster, we soon saw the biggest way we could make a difference was by building a classroom for 5 year olds in the Foundation Year,’ Dave explains. ‘Brookdale Primary had five foundation classes at the time, only one of which had a classroom. Of the others, one was housed in an old shipping container, two were under the shelter of a large verandah open to the elements on three sides, and the fifth was under a large tree, weather permitting.’ The project evolved into building two foundation year classrooms that formed the heart of a new wing of the school specifically for this age group. But the local benefits did not stop there.

One good idea leads to another

As the project got going, Dave and the team of volunteers involved saw the opportunity to do even more for the local community. ‘We enlisted the aid of a company that specialises in building schools,’ Dave continues, ‘but more importantly, the company hired its team locally and lodged everyone at the school during the build.’ Added to this, another opportunity was also spotted: ‘When we were building the classroom, we came up with the idea of building food gardens too, with food tunnels full of plants, so that the school could produce and sell food, using the money collected to feed the children.’

The education system in South Africa isn’t going to transform on the back of the work Bata did with one school, but it does show that small differences can be made, little by little, project by project. We are pleased every time we are able to find a way to be part of the process.

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