Irish company sponsors Mandela Day container library at Western Cape school
On 30 January 2013 the 23rd Mandela Day container library was opened at Linge Junior Secondary School in Nyanga, the Western Cape. The library was sponsored by Irish Distillers, a company based in Dublin.
More than 200 members of staff from Dublin’s Irish Distillers arrived in Cape Town a week earlier for the group’s annual conference. Part of the visitors’ itinerary included a trip to Robben Island, where they learnt about Nelson Mandela and his contribution to the political struggle for freedom in South Africa. Here the group presented a symbolic cheque for the container library to Tim Smith, of Breadline Africa, and Frank Meintjies, of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory.
On 30 January a smaller contingent of staff members, about 60 people, travelled to Linge Junior Secondary School in Nyanga for the opening of the sponsored library.
Upon arrival at the premises the school choir gave a rousing rendition of the National Anthem and the principal, Ms Ntsiki Hato, welcomed the Irish visitors and representatives of both Breadline Africa and the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory.
Ms Hato gave a quick overview of the school and how it had started as a small learning centre with no building in 1959. She spoke about the significance of having a library on the school premises, to instill a culture of learning and to support education, particularly in an area facing poverty and high unemployment.
She added that many of the learners at the school are taken care of by grandparents, who are not always able to support them with their homework. She then thanked all the partners for having chosen to work with Linge.
Ms Rosemary Garth, a member of the Irish Distillers management team, then spoke about the core values of the company and stressed that they wanted to play a small role in changing people’s lives for good.
She spoke of her excitement at having the annual conference in South Africa, and of leaving a lasting legacy – a library. The company had worked hard in Ireland for this dream to become a reality – dance competitions had been hosted, cake sales were initiated, and everybody made an effort to accomplish the project.
The company intends building a lasting relationship with the school.
For Ms Garth and many of the visitors, the library opening was the highlight of their trip to South Africa.
Ms Puleng Phooko, of Breadline Africa, spoke about the words that Irish Distillers have taken as their motto: Real, Remarkable and Responsible.
What was real for her was that the container library was now part of the school, tangible and ready for use by the learners. What was remarkable for her was that there were already three teachers at the school who were trained librarians. She further challenged the school to take responsibility for the library, to own the library, to take care of the library, and that the responsibility should lie with everyone at the school.
Mr Meintjies then spoke about the great need for libraries in schools in South Africa. He thanked Irish Distillers for making a contribution to a country that has 25 000 public schools, 80% of which are still in need of libraries.
R Meintjies said that schools that demand a library and that are ready and willing to do the implementation work were more likely to be selected. He said schools were selected on the basis of need and “own initiative”.
“The library is now in the hands of the school and we believe it is ready to ensure the library functions well, and that learners use it to the maximum,” he said.
Learners sang and performed a dance. One of the learners recited a poem that reflected on how the library would make it easier for her to enter “the wonderful world of words”.
Then Ms Sokoyi spoke on behalf of the school governing body and the parents. She felt moved by the fact that although South Africa and Ireland are divided by the oceans, the Irish had still shown interest and determination by reaching across to help a school in South Africa. She urged the school to take good care of the new library.
At the end of the ceremony all guests moved from the school hall across to the new library, where the ribbon was cut by Ms Garth, and the door opened by the principal so that all the visitors could inspect the new library.
The Irish visitors then had to leave quickly, as many of them were on their way home after their short stay in South Africa.