One morning at a local supermarket in Hout Bay, Lola Kramer (one of our founders and trustees) witnessed a security guard chasing a street child away from the shop entrance. She had seen this same boy many times before begging on the streets outside of her realty agency. Lola was concerned about the child and wondered why he lived the way he did.
She followed Siphelo that morning and began talking with him to try to understand why he would beg and steal each day when he should be attending school. After a couple of weeks, a relationship of trust was established between Lola and Siphelo. She offered him meals in exchange for casual employment around her office.
While getting to know each other, it emerged that although he was 16 years old, he was unable to read and write.
He related to her that throughout primary school, he had memorised his English work accurately, but without understanding, and was able to pass each grade that way. At a certain point, Siphelo could find no value in attending school, and this coupled with the fact that he had no guardian looking after him at the time, led him to drop out all together at the end of primary school.
Siphelo was essentially orphaned because his mother was unable to take care of him, and he had no better option than to live on the streets, drinking and doing drugs, begging and stealing to get by.
Lola, who had previously worked as an English teacher, spent time with Siphelo and started teaching him to read at the age of 16. During this time, Lola realised that there were many other children like Siphelo within the Hout Bay community. She contacted her long time friend Val Toledo, who had developed a literacy curriculum for disadvantaged adults, and they talked about how they could develop the curriculum further to be relevant to Siphelo and other children like him.Lola and Val visited the local Sentinel School and spoke to the principal to see how they could intervene and help the students who struggle and ultimately drop out. Lola then asked a friend, Gailyn Scarpa if she would like to take up the literacy challenge at the Sentinel School. Val trained Gailyn to use the material and and took over the running of the school and teacher training and supervision. She also decided to take over the management of the project.
This was the beginning of a very exciting challenge that continues today! We now reach over 500 students and have built four classrooms on the school campus. At the school’s request, we have also provided supplementary Maths classes since late 2010.
And Siphelo? He is now a certified panel beater and works full time at a local bottle store while he searches for an apprenticeship in his trade. His life has been completely transformed because one person shared what they could with him. And ABC for Life was born. Thank you Lola, Val and Siphelo for giving so many more students at Sentinel School a chance for a brighter future!