In the desolate village of Divhani in Venda, in the Limpopo province of South Africa, a crowd of community members gathers to witness a monumental event: a crèche is getting proper toilets.
Like many rural areas in South Africa and indeed Africa, Divhani is underdeveloped. Residents struggle to access even the most basic infrastructure, such as running water, and toilets that are safe and dignified to use.
The crèche project is funded by the Vodacom Foundation after the telecommunications company made a commitment to help eradicate pit toilets in South Africa at Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 in Johannesburg on Dec. 2 2018.
In South Africa, several school children have died while using pit toilets — inspiring Vodacom to commit to making pit toilets history by 2030, after Global Citizens took 57,482 actions calling on the private sector to help the South African government eradicate pit latrines.
As well as replacing the existing pit latrines with two new, safe toilets, Divhani community crèche was also renovated by the programme. Its two classrooms were given new furniture, toys and books.
There’s also a borehole and new water tank to ensure that the children, and community, will have clean drinking water.
Takalani Netshitenzhe, chief officer of corporate affairs for Vodacom, said while the company committed to only eradicating pit toilets, their safety officers realised that more needed to be done to ensure that learning environments give children quality education.
This includes renovating buildings and empowering communities with better resources — inspiring Vodacom to create an education ecosystem that goes far beyond providing safe sanitation.
“We will be addressing many of the socio-economic challenges faced by communities,” said Netshitenzhe.
This will be done by working with Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centres, primary schools, and high schools to ensure that all educational needs are met, from renovating and refurbishing buildings, to providing clean drinking water, to building computer labs, and training teachers to promote digital literacy and education.
“In many of the marginalised and rural communities, educational institutions and facilities are poorly resourced, the infrastructure is falling apart, and there is no access to technology or any other educational resources,” continued Netshitenzhe, “In the Vodacom-supported communities, we will be working in partnership with government, civil society, and the communities to ensure that we address some of these challenges.”
As a start to honouring the commitment made in front of more than 60,000 Global Citizens, the Vodacom Foundation has identified 15 ECD centres in Limpopo; and the renovations will be extended to a primary and high school in the same area as each centre.
In Divhani, the project also includes Divhani Primary School and the Frank Ravele Secondary School. Pit toilets have been replaced with proper sanitation facilities at both, and the secondary school has been fitted with a digital lab containing 60 computers and internet access; something that learners previously had to travel to town to get.
The secondary school also forms part of the Vodacom Schools of Excellence initiative. These are 12 Limpopo schools identified in partnership with the Department of Basic Education, that are equipped with digital labs and resources to integrate technology education into their curriculum.
At Frank Ravele secondary school, #VodacomFoundation has improved sanitation by installing a borehole, replacing broken windows and ceilings, plus establishing a world-class computer lab with 60 computers which have access to connectivity. #ConnectingForGoodpic.twitter.com/EPy8qgF0bO— Vodacom (@Vodacom) March 20, 2019
“We do all this because we believe in a sustainable education system and good quality education using information and computer technology (ICT),” added Netshitenzhe. “We believe computer labs will facilitate the creation, not only of a reading nation, but a digitally literate nation.”
She continued: “Big corporates such as Vodacom exist as a part of society that is dogged by high levels of inequality and poverty… It is our obligation to partner with the government and non-governmental organisations to come up with solutions to deal with some of the socio-economic problems plaguing our society today.”