Leading edible oil producer, Willowton Group, manufacturers of Sunfoil Pure Sunflower Oil and Sunshine D Margarine and spreads, has reached out to the Green Hill Primary School in Northdale, Pietermaritzburg, to refurbish the school which has become a safety hazard for learners.
Work began at the end of November 2022 and was completed ahead of the school re-opening for the 2023 school year. The handover ceremony to the school principal Mr Diren Naidoo took place on 22 February with Mr Mohamed Ishfaaq Moosa representing Willowton Group
The refurbishment of Green Hill Primary included the repairing of leaks to roofs and the replacement of gutters and sagging and broken ceilings as well as the repair of damaged prefab buildings and the repainting of the entire school. The repair of catwalks used by learners to access different school buildings was also attended to.
The school, which celebrates its 50th birthday in 2023 has established itself as a strong institution of teaching and learning over the past 48 years with many of the learners that have passed through its classrooms making the school extremely proud, said principal Mr Diren Naidoo.
However, due to flood damage last April and lack of continuous maintenance, the state of the school and its classrooms had begun to compromise the quality of teaching at Green Hill Primary.
“There are no words to express our gratitude for what Willowton has been prepared to do for the school’s teachers and management, its learners, and the community. We never thought this would happen. The children and their parents were so excited when they returned to school in January to what seemed like a new school. These children do not come from affluent homes and this is a real pick- me-up for them,” Mr Naidoo said.
He said that the school had appealed to Willowton, which had supported its school feeding scheme in past years, for help during 2022. He said that no upgrades to the school had been carried out since the school opened in 1973 and numerous appeals for funding of repairs had gone unanswered.
Despite attempts to keep the school neat and tidy, it was falling apart. Heavy rains last year caused severe damage to the aging school building. Roofs were leaking, gutters had fallen down and ceilings of classrooms and corridors were on the verge of collapse. The prefab buildings were dilapidated and a safety hazard to learners with one prefab building being condemned.
However, the school serves poor communities. Although it initially served Northdale, after 1994, it included learners from surrounding communities. Now, 90% of the school’s 545 learners travel to school from surrounding townships and informal settlements such as Edendale, Imbali, Grange, France, Copesville, Happy Valley, Jika Joe and Site 11 informal settlements.
Only a very small portion of school fees are paid. The school grants school fund concessions to unemployed parents. However, Mr Naidoo said this had a negative impact on the funding of the school. The small grant amount received via the Department of Education, together with the school’s internal fundraising efforts, goes towards payment of utilities such as electricity, purchasing of school books and stationery as well as employment of educators and cleaners.
“The school had no choice but to repair the rain-damaged school building at its own expense. But because the school is serving an impoverished community with many unemployed parents who are not financially in a position to carry the responsibility of repairs, we needed to humbly appeal for help from Willowton,” he explained.
Operations Executive of the Willowton Group, Mohamed Ishfaaq Moosa, said that The Company commended Mr Naidoo and the school body for being prepared to fight for the well-being of the school and its learners during extremely trying times. He said Willowton Group was proud to be able to offer support and looked forward to a positive school year for the learners at Green Hill Primary during 2023.
“The primary years are an important foundation for high school and equipping our future generation for the acquisition of skills via tertiary education. South Africa needs a skilled workforce to assist its economic recovery which is why it is important to invest in the upcoming generation of learners. We know just how important education is when it comes to lifting people out of poverty and allowing them to access job and entrepreneurial opportunities.” he said.
The total amount spent on the refurbishment of Green Hill Primary School is R700 000.
The fact that education is very close to Willowton Group’s heart is evident in its contribution to several KZN schools. During 2021/2022, Willowton Group assisted 11 schools with the building of infrastructure and classrooms and helped more than 30 schools with funding for school fees and feeding programs.
Willowton Group’s concern for the health and well-being of surrounding communities extends to its ongoing efforts to clear a 1 kilometre stretch of the heavily polluted Baynespruit river urges other industries and communities to follow its example. Its efforts to clear the river, which have included the reintroduction of the KZN Yellow fish in June 2022, have improved the quality of life for its neighbours.
The link to the photos taken before renovations at Green Hill Primary School - https://we.tl/t-4SRBRRzr5P
Completed refurbishment photos at Green Hill Primary School in Pietermaritzburg - https://we.tl/t-KXvG3stjAD
ABOUT THE WILLOWTON GROUP
The Willowton Group, manufacturers of Sunfoil Sunflower Oil, is one of the leading manufacturers in the South African FMCG market.
The group operates across South Africa with manufacturing facilities in Pietermaritzburg, Johannesburg, and Cape Town. A wide range of products encompassing edible oils, margarines and spreads, beauty, toilet and laundry soaps, candles, baking and industrial fats. Well-known brands include, among others, Sunfoil, Sunshine D, d’lite and Allsome rice.
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