I was fortunate to have been invited to the East Coast Radio Women’s breakfast by the Action Coach team. What an inspiring morning listening to some wonderful speakers but it was the positive message and the inkling of hope that left us all feeling a little lighter and a little brighter about tomorrow.

And, coming home it has also made me really reflect a bit more on our own community. We hear the great women’s names, we quote their words and we wish we had a handful of their qualities. But, perhaps we don’t give more credit to those closer to home.

In 2006 we formalized our efforts in working with our community schools and after identifying 5 preschools, we soon gathered a couple more and our work really just evolved into the Khanyisela Project. Today we work and support 14 preschools (almost 500 little children) in the broader Amazizi community, stretching towards Okhombe, Zwelisha and high into the Busingatha Valley.

At times progress has felt slow and there have been frustrating moments but when I think back to the beginning and remember where we came from I am just amazed. One of the greatest challenges in these small spaces is to improve teaching. I was, and actually I suppose I still am, a teacher and I know that the largest amount of theory does not really prepare you for the classroom and it does very little in helping deal with the individual differences of the children. Becoming a great teacher requires mentorship. And, mentorship happens through excellent example.

Through the Cavern I have been fortunate to meet incredible people who just offer to share their knowledge and experience and so we have had lovely teacher workshops. But it has to go even deeper than that and so last year we thought very carefully about each of the ladies who head up the 14 schools and we identified two who we knew would be great at helping the others along as mentors to the other preschools in the area.

Teresa Ndawo of Emseni & Gabusile Maduna of Samekelokuhle are two incredible women. About 10 years ago, they both saw a need in their communities and they both offered a crèche service to the families around them. They’d take care of the children while the parents and carers went to work. Both of these women had to apply for a PTO (permission to occupy), they had to establish a committee, they then needed to convince funders that they needed buildings. Well, our Khanyisela Project built each of them one and then later another classroom. These 2 schools run effectively, at capacity, and not only do they care for the children but they give them an environment where they can grow and learn. And yes, this is the very big difference. There are many schools, many buildings, even quite a few resources, but learning and growing does not always happen.

Their schools are well organized. Both ladies have vegetable gardens and they are continually working to improve their own situation. Here are two women who must be celebrated. Here are two women who are happy to work in giving others a hand-up by sharing their knowledge and expertise. Their dedication and organization means that each month they each visit 6 of our other little schools and have helped these teachers develop their teaching.

It is all about growing a community and most importantly growing the children. We salute you, Teresa & Gabusile. Here’s to strong and inspiring women in our community.

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