10 December 2020 - It was a disaster in the year of a pandemic. Principal Zanele Tjiana arrived at her school, Ekangala Comprehensive High School, to find the computers, servers with student practical exams on them, keyboards and other equipment were gone.
“I had joined the school as principal only in August 2020. It is one of the only technical schools in Mpumalanga and really in an impoverished area. Most of the parents work in factories around the industrial area. The aim of the school was to teach children trade skills for them to find work and to encourage them to continue with tertiary studies,” she says.
Sadly, this year many of the factories closed down. “Many parents are now unemployed,” she says. For the students, educating themselves is important in breaking the cycle of poverty. Along with welding, electrical and motor mechanics, Computer Applications is a key teaching area.
“Most of the learners around here were not exposed to computers hence it was introduced as a subject, because this is a basic skill and it is needed for tertiary studies,” says principal Tjiana.
A double-blow in a difficult year
Earlier this year the school received a donation of 33 computers and were well on their way with classes. Unfortunately those were stolen in August. “Luckily the matric students had completed their exams by then, but we had Grade 8, 9 and 10 learners who had practicals still on those servers.”
Second-hand computers were donated by a local company but “they would stop and crash in the middle of the lesson”. “We seriously needed new computers, and thank God for Dr Lerato Khatle, who is a friend of my daughter,” says principal Tjiana.
Dr Khatle heard about the school’s plight and approached Discovery where she works in the health professional relations team. “When my friend and colleague told me about wat happened at her mother’s school, I was deeply moved and concerned for the students.”
“Being a part of an underprivileged community, this type of incident already sets them back when compared to learners who are exposed to more opportunities and have the resources. Education is truly their only way out of poverty and to know that despite their best efforts they remain set back was heart-breaking,” says Dr Khatle.
“With this in mind and faith in my heart, I asked Mrs Tjiana to draft a letter and told her I would try to ask my team if we could help. I approached Dr Maurice Goodman, [chief medical officer at Discovery] who felt compelled to share the letter with the senior leadership. We were put in contact with Discovery’s technology partner, Qrent, via the CEO, Mr DJ Kumbula. He was able to confirm the donation of 35 computers within 24 hours of our request.”
Small gestures equal big impact
Spokesperson for Qrent, Kwirirai Rukowo said it was a cause they could not refuse to assist on. “We share a rich history with Discovery spanning over 15 years, providing Discovery with their IT hardware requirements through our leasing solutions. The requirement coincided with exam time, and with learners having lost a lot of time due to COVID-19, it was critical that we made this possible so the learners could catch up. Any further delay could have impacted the learners ability to complete their exams. We also trust that the computers will be used to create capacity for future learners as well - improving the quality of education for more than one group of students.”
He adds: “Like Discovery, we believe in making an impact in the communities we operate in. This was our small way of positively impacting lives in South Africa.”
Principal Tjiana says: “That was really so humbling for us… that these sponsors thought of ploughing back resources into a disadvantaged community.”
Dr Khatle adds of her effort, which is a tenet of Discovery ForGood, Discovery’s employee volunteer programme: “This was really nothing short of a miracle for Mrs Tjiana and her students. I’m really honoured to have had the opportunity to be there when the PC’s were delivered. Above all I was so thankful to Qrent for meeting this need. Seeing the relief and joy in the eyes of affected students and teachers was deeply humbling. I’m so grateful to Qrent for this sponsorship. The impact of this donation is consequential to the trajectory of the lives of these students, so they can position themselves to succeed in the world moving forward.”
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Discovery Limited is a South African-founded financial services organisation that operates in the healthcare, life assurance, short-term insurance, savings and investment and wellness markets. Since inception in 1992, Discovery has been guided by a clear core purpose – to make people healthier and to enhance and protect their lives. This has manifested in its globally recognised Vitality Shared-Value insurance model, active in 24 markets with over 20 million members. The model is exported and scaled through the Global Vitality Network, an alliance of some of the largest insurers across key markets including AIA (Asia), Ping An (China), Generali (Europe), Sumitomo (Japan), John Hancock (US), Manulife (Canada) and Vitality Life & Health (UK, wholly owned). Discovery trades on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange as DSY.
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