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Social Responsibility in South Africa

6 March, 2017
Suzanne Edmunds CEO

Suzanne Edmunds CEO

I have recently come back from a holiday outside South Africa where I had some interesting discussions with ex-South Africans, who are in my opinion always ready to attack and criticise our lives here in order to defend their decision to emigrate. You all know what I mean ! Whenever I come across this it is my pleasure to highlight the good stuff that is happening here at home.
One of the areas I like to talk about is the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSI)scene.
Are South African corporates generous or are they guided by the brilliant DTI score card to which we report ? It doesn’t really matter, the point is that Corporates have responded so well to this imperative that today we have hundreds of Corporates feeding into a multi billion rand sector – the support of the vulnerable in our society. Support for education, where Project Build operates, alone is reputed to be R2billion.
As the person at Project Build who is responsible for income development it is a constant joy for me to sit down with the people who make up this sector. Whether is it with the professionals who man the CSI departments of the large organizations or simply people who care who might be running an NGO or a member of a service organization like Rotary International I have such respect for the work done.
Just this week I have had three memorable meetings with such people who are looking to collaborate with Project Build. One meeting was about upgrades to a school, another was an upgrade to a transitional house for students. The third was quite different, it concerned creating an environment with the Department of Education for Women’s empowerment. At each meeting the passion and caring for others was the motivating factor. These are not isolated meetings, but meetings I regularly have with people in the CSI sector. It makes me feel so Proudly South African .
I cannot finish this blog without highlighting the role of the DTI Scorecard. The Government has got this so right. Companies who need to trade with the government or trade with companies who trade with the government need to meet the requirements of the scorecard. A large professional industry has grown around this, all to the benefit of the society in which we live.
I love to watch the expression on the faces of my expat friends when I show them the details and success of this CSI sector.

Our 40th Anniversary.

21 October, 2016

I was thrilled when I realised that 2017 will be the 40th Anniversary of Project Build Trust. In that time we have built approximately 6000 classrooms and benefitted some 160,000 learners. For interest we have trained close to 50 builders to manage their own smme enterprises. In addition many suppliers have grown as a result of good regular business with Project Build. And equally important with the help of our builders we train an estimated 150 community members each year in building skills. In recent years we have welcomed a large number of students for their in service training – about 15 pa. Not too many entities can lay claim to 40 years of successfully carrying out their mandate!

We want to celebrate! We are planning a bumper edition of our review. A special event to which stakeholders will be invited is going to take place. Watch our social media! And most important it will be the year where we will build build build so that all our friends and associates will benefit along with learners and educators.

Some background. In 1977 the Urban Foundation started a classroom building division. In 1994 an independent Trust – Natal Schools Project Trust – was formed. This was rebranded in 2010 to Project Build Trust.

Over the years we have had major successes, we have had our challenges. Through it all The Project Trust Team, the employees and the Trustees have pulled together to make sure we never missed a step. And this is how we plan on going forward!

Suzanne Edmunds CEO

Relationship Building

6 July, 2016

Relationships are the building blocks for Project Build Trust’s activities.
Because all relationships we have with the communities we serve are the means for achieving our goals, it is our caring for others that motivates us to work as hard as we do. It is also the people who motivate us to reach our goals
Through continuous support from Tongatt Hullet we have been able to create such a relationship with the community of Mvuzane under Inkosi Biyela’s leadership. Inkosi Biyela has assured us that our working in the area is appreciated and welcome by all, that way Project Build Staff , the builder and his team will always be taken care of when working in the area.
In the pictures below, Project Build Trust was handing over to Mvuzane Tribal Court toilets donated by Tongatt Hullet.

 Inkosi Biyela and Mvuzane Tribal Court CommitteeInkosi Biyela and Mr Biyela (PBT Builder)

Education for Special Needs Learners

5 July, 2016

Suzanne EdmundsWatching the destruction of schools this year and reading the comprehensive report “The right to basic education” published in Sangonet 12th May 2016 which reports on the burning of schools in Vuwani Limpopo during this past year there is a single thought that goes through my head:
What about learners who can’t attend schools because there are none that are suitable!
In the last few years Project Build has been fortunate enough to raise funds to do extensive building at schools for learners with very special needs. It has sensitized me to how few dedicated schools are available for these young learners. I have also learned what infrastructure is most suitable.
I searched the internet to find articles which have relevance. I found articles on the issue of inclusive education – schools where children with special needs are absorbed into the mainstream. There are interesting credible academic papers founded on good research which support this concept as the way to go. The need for dedicated schools is ignored in the current articles. (see S. Afr. J. educ. Vol. 34n.2 Pretoria Jun.2014. The Challenges of Realizing Inclusive education in South Africa. D Dononhue and J Bornman)
I am not an educator, I lead a specialized building NGO so I would not consider commentating on inclusive education except from a view of physically accommodating learners with special needs. This is our field of expertise.
When building for special need learners so much is different from mainstream. One can certainly not accommodate these special people in classes where there are anything from 50 to 70 learners in a class and one teacher per class. It has nothing to do with intellect but how can children with speech and hearing or sight difficulties can ever hope to get enough attention from the educator that is needed. Can you imagine a stressed educator whose resources are already stretched dealing with these needs.. Specialist therapy rooms are needed to accommodate social workers, occupational therapists, speech and hearing therapists and physiotherapists . The classrooms need to be large for wheelchairs and other aids, sometimes with special toilets and ablution facilities. And yes, different does often mean intellectually challenged though not necessarily.
There needs to be special exercise equipment in adequate playgrounds. And yes, hostel facilities. Many of the learners come from very far distances. And this in a way is the very nub of the problem.
There are relatively few specially designed schools and educators with specialist training, I’m not sure if there are specialist therapy posts. But when I talk to my anecdotal sources I learn of the shortage of schools dedicated to special needs, or if there are schools the specialist facilities are lacking. However it is reported in of November 2015 author More Matshediso that there 453 special schools in SA and 18 under construction. The report closes with a quote from Thenjiwe Ndebele in her capacity as the Chairperson of Self Advocates from Down Syndrome SA. She pleads that all children with disabilities be given access to education so that they can earn a bit of independence “I may have a disability but I have many abilities. We matter. Education is important to us” said Ndebele
Every year on MANDELA DAY , Project Build takes corporate volunteers to a school to beautify the buildings. It takes a lot of planning but worth every resource we put into the event. This year we have chosen a school with special needs. It is a school we have built at before. It is a school with a dedicated curriculum and wonderful educators helping young people who would otherwise languish at home hardly attended to, take their productive place in society. Once we have left the school on that day it will look really nice. A place that will lift the morale of educators, learners and parents.

So again I ask myself, is it fair that schools are being burnt when there are so many school age children who cannot access what the constitution of the country guarantees – an education. We will dedicate our MANDELA DAY to these young people.


Staff Profile of Dumisile Ndlovu

30 June, 2016
Quantities Clerk / Store Keeper

Quantities Clerk / Store Keeper

I am Dumsile Ndlovu, from Msinga (Tugela Ferry, North of KwaZulu Natal). I was born and raised in this area. I attended both my primary and secondary schooling in the area.
After finishing Matric, I enrolled for Civil Engineering Diploma at Coastal KZN FET College (Swinton Campus). Upon completing level N6, I spent the whole year at home applying for In-service training but there was no luck in finding a company that will train me.
One day in July 2010 while I was at home I noticed that there was an infrastructure development activity taking place at the Zizi Primary School (A school next to my house). When teachers and learners left school, I went to the builder who was working there. I enquired about the project; he told me the name of the company was Project Build Trust. I told him my story and he advised that I take down the office numbers and call the office the following day. The builder told me that I must not be scared because people at the office are very approachable they will listen to me and perhaps help. I copied Project Build Trust contact details from the sign board, the following day I called the Project Build Trust. Suzanne said that I must fax my resume. In August I was called for an interview which was a success. In August again I started in-service training with PBT which ended in February 2012. I left the organisation armed with a variety of skills that were required by most employers, but unfortunately there were no jobs available.
Until 25 June 2012, I received the call from Project Build Trust requesting me to come to the office as there was something that the management wanted to discuss with me. It was a permanent position, my hard work, dedication and willingness to learn during my in-service training days paid off.
From that day I never looked back, I value the role played by this organisation in my life. I call it HOME, I have been with this organisation for 5 years and 6 months. My intention is to serve the organisation to my level best, that way I am contributing to “The Building of healthy communities”
I enjoy my work, there is sense of belonging, and the spirit of UBUNTU is modelled everyday.

Workplace Traning for our Builders Children

27 June, 2016

Nkosinathi  & LondiweAt the core of Project Build Trust business is effective management of relationships. The organisation has created healthy successful relationships with our different builders in the Province of Kwa Zulu Natal. These are builders who ensure that the organisation is able to deliver excellent infrastructure to beneficiaries and can attract funding to continue building for communities in need.
Apart from providing workplace training opportunities for learning and advancement for Durban University of Technology students, the organisation has started providing similar assistance to (our) builder’s children. The organization has an interest in seeing them reach their potential and entering tertiary education institutions.
(Left)Nkosinathi, is Mr Mhlongo’s son. He is currently doing final year civil engineering; he has written “My father has been with Project Build Trust for the past 20 years, I asked him to assist me get an inservice training with the organisation, which was granted. I have been in the organisation for a month now, they are teaching me things I never thought I would ever know, like managing stock, typing quotations, calculating the cost of building stock, calculating builder’s payments, and many more. Project Build Trust has played a huge role in my life that I will never forget”.
(Right)Londiwe , is Mr Mfeka’s daughter , she is currently doing her first year financial accounting. Londiwe has been with us for a week, she is working closely with Nondumiso (our community liaison officer). We are planning to refer her to an accounting company where she will get experiential learning in accounting.
It gives the organisation pure delight seeing them grow, they are gaining competency doing practical tasks assigned to them daily. We would like to believe that this opportunity will afford them theoretical and practical skills at the same time so that they will have no problem in the real world of work when they complete their studies.

Shortage of Classrooms by Suzanne Edmunds

13 June, 2016

Suzanne EdmundsThere was an article in the paper headlined ’72 PUPILS TO A CLASSROOM.
As horrible as this information is to read, it is correct. The journalist has hit the nail on the head.
Very sadly this story and the picture is typical of many schools in KZN. It is a real challenge for the Department of Education to keep up with the needs at each and every school.
When authorities talk of the shortage of classrooms in the province the figure bandied around is 14,000 at any given time. However much building goes on, this figure doesn’t change. There are many reasons for this. A major reason is the changing demography – the migration of rural people to the cities. Another is that many classrooms are in such bad condition that it is not safe for young learners and their educators – they need to be demolished.
I write on good authority. Project Build Trust is at the forefront of building educational buildings mainly in KZN, but also in other provinces. All our funding is from the very generous donor community, private trusts and the many businesses who care and who support education through the corporate social responsibility or enterprise development programmes.
When we travel to other provinces, we are greeted by similar stories exactly as described in your article of huge numbers per class, big boys and girls sitting three to a desk designed for two; bad ventilation etc.
How can our society possibly expect good education to happen under these conditions?
Project Build Trust has been working in this field for 40 years. There is hardly an area in KZN that has not benefitted from our ability to harness funds from the donor community to help improve the conditions at schools. In these years we have built we estimate 6000 classrooms.
One of our Trustees, a retired educator Mr Moses Mogambery former chief education specialist for curriculum (grades 10-12) in his well-researched article in our 2012 annual review writes, “……….Whilst the quality of teaching stands out as the single most powerful determinant of education outcomes, it is evident that school infrastructure is beginning to play an increasingly significant role as well.”
He makes reference to three studies all of which show similar results regarding the role of school infrastructure in the achieving of educational outcomes. They is a report authored by ED Young (2003) published after three decades of research in the USA; A series of reports by the Commonwealth Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) and similar studies by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) on learning in Latin America and the Caribbean. All these attest to improved results and better behaviour when there is quality infrastructure for education.
So while we at Project Build understand the environment, it is our hope that the community will rise to the challenge to help build better schools. It is not a cliché to say that our South African society is the direct beneficiary of a better educated society.