Unisa’s College of Education shows its commitment to the community

Ailwei Mawela (Curriculum and Instructional Studies, CEDU) unveils the Nissan Impendulo NV350 he was instrumental in getting donated to Gordon Primary School in Alexandra.

The staff and learners of Gordon Primary School in Alexandra were excited to receive a new school bus, courtesy of Unilever South Africa. Ailwei Mawela, a lecturer at Unisa’s Department of Curriculum and Instructional Studies in the College of Education (CEDU) and former principal of Gordon Primary, and his strategic partner, Orestis Patricios of the Ornico Group, were instrumental in securing the donation of the minibus, a Nissan Impendulo NV350.

This bus will be used to transport learners to sporting events, school excursions and other events that will add great value to their education experience, and will assist the school in providing better opportunities for learners who are soccer champions, among other sporting codes.

Mawela has a long list of educator pastoral care accomplishments. In the past, he has also collaborated with other local businesses in providing every learner in the school with both summer and winter uniforms, a state-of-the-art computer lab consisting of 50 desktop computers donated by Siyakha Education Trust, and a developing library.

Miya Mduduzi, a CEDU Teaching Practice student at the school, says that “when facilities are in place, it makes the learning environment very conducive. My assignment to Gordon Primary has very been inspiring.”

Patricios, the strategic partner of Mawela said that “the challenges which schools like Gordon Primary are facing are a wake-up call for the business community. The community engagement call has become a pillar of business.” This is an example of how public-private partnerships that engage with community stakeholders can help develop more resilient and sustainable schools.

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The challenges faced by the school are very familiar to Prof Oupa Lebeloane, affectionately known as “Bra Oupa”, a director of CEDU’s School of Educational Studies. Bra Oupa is a former third-generation educator in his family at a number of Alexandra township schools. The Lebeloane family remain proud property owners there.

“The Gordon Primary project is close to my heart, among the many other community engagement projects I actively participate in,” said Lebeloane. There are still many challenges the school is facing but not enough to dim the bright smiles the learners show. It is important to note that while Alexandra, established in 1912, does not have the same good economic standing as its neighbour Sandton, nevertheless, to the benefit of CEDU, it has produced a noteworthy leader and academic such as Bra Oupa.

Prof Geesje van den Berg and Prof Oupa Lebeloane
interacting with Gordon Primary learners

Prof Geesje van den Berg, a former primary school teacher and the current Chair of the Department of Curriculum and Instructional Studies of CEDU, said that “Mr Mawela is a dynamic recent addition to the excellent department of the curriculum and instructional studies collective”. She stressed that community engagement should consist of individuals who build ongoing relationships for a purpose and added that the Gordon Primary project was now a commitment and a collective vision.

Ailwei Mawela and Unilever South Africa CEO Peter Cowan

She explained that community engagement has possible long-term implications, and that “when we visit schools and interact with learners, we gain an intimate understanding of the unique circumstances surrounding each project; in addition, we plant in young minds the seeds of the possibility of attending universities in the future. We furthermore encourage educators to advance their studies while we relate with current CEDU students.”

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At the bus handover, Unilever South Africa CEO Peter Cowan said: “The minibus is a small token of our appreciation for the hard work and efforts that the former principal, Mr Mawela, the Gordon Primary staff, the governing body and the community have put into making sure that this school is one where we nurture the country’s future.” The acting principal of Gordon Primary, Mahlambi Sizwe, was overwhelmed with joy.

*By Dineo Horner