DURBAN – Procter and Gamble (P&G) has decided to join forces with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to restore and rebuild schools affected by the civil unrest that swept through KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng in July.
P&G committed to help rebuild schools in KZN for the 2022 school year.
P&G said when they consider various challenges facing schools and pupils, there were even more compelling reasons why they cannot lose sight of the importance of community participation in schools.
P&G Sub-Sahara Africa communications leader Cassie Jaganyi said: “We can all agree that our education system has been tested to the limit in recent months. But as a nation, we have demonstrated time and time again how strong and united we are when confronted with pressing issues of this nature.
“We can overcome this if we come together to lend a hand towards healing and rebuilding our country, by ensuring that majority, if not all of the affected schools are restored to their former glory.”
Jaganyi added that through their brands such as Always, Vicks, Head & Shoulders and Pantene, they are able to raise funds and form the SiyakhaKabusha Initiative. An initiative which aims to rehabilitate several schools destroyed during the riots.
To ensure that thousands of children gradually resume schooling in 2022, P&G has pledged R7m towards the start of the project that will see the first five schools in KZN being rebuilt in the coming weeks. The project got under way on December 15.
P&G said working in partnership with UNICEF, the National Education Collaboration Trust and the Department of Basic Education, the campaign has identified five priority schools for repair. They are Ikumhlophe Secondary School; Elora Primary School; Margot Fonteyn High School in uMlazi; Golden Steps School; and Siphosethu Primary School in Pinetown.
Explaining the dire impact of the damage from the unrest and the subsequent looting of schools, aggrieved Siphosethu Primary School principal Themba Sokhabase said it will take a long time for most affected schools to recover and return to full-capacity learning in January 2022.
“It is really sad that we find ourselves where we are today, given how hard we worked to ensure we provide safe and decent infrastructure to our learners. Now everything we worked hard for and were proud to have achieved is destroyed; the learners records, the teachers and school records, they are all gone,” Sokhabase said.
He added that he was relieved that P&G was coming to assist, “and help us recover everything we’ve lost. We want to thank them in advance for reaching out to us when we needed them most. We really are pinning our hopes on them.”
P&G South Africa vice-president and general manager Agraj Sharma, said the extent of the damage was far worse than expected, and it would take a great deal of time and resources to repair and rebuild.
“As a company that cares deeply about the community it serves and their most pressing needs, we are cognisant that the longer we wait, the more difficult it will be to get things back on track. So, we are all ready and set for the mammoth task that lies ahead, and together with our esteemed partners, we hope to assist and reach as many KZN schools as we can in the shortest amount of time,” Sharma said.
As Jaganyi best puts it, schools are the pillars of communities “and we must do everything in our power to protect them”.
The value they provide to society extends beyond education, she said. “Our schools aren’t only places of learning but are also part of ongoing interventions such as regularly providing nutritious food for children in need, which is beneficial to their physical and mental well-being, and to help them realise their full potential.
“We need to work together as communities, the government and the private sector to ensure these children are not only afforded the basic human right to learning, but are treated fairly, equally, and with dignity.”
Jaganyi added that “South Africans have long been loyal supporters of our brands. It’s now our turn to repay it going forward, and show our appreciation to the people of this country by playing our part and ensuring that quality education is accessible to all children, irrespective of their economic backgrounds.”