Previously, Siloe did not have a library and pupils used the library of a private school on the same premises but were only allowed to go in after six in the evening. “Our children need to be supervised most of the time and going to the library after hours meant that they would go without teacher supervision,” said Ms Ramasela Agnes Lebelo who is the acting school principal. The library was identified as a priority to support the learning needs of Siloe’s pupils, in addition to other needs such as establishing a food garden for the school.
The project came on the back of an existing partnership between Polokwane Management Area and Siloe to prepare inmates for reintegration. The management area provides offender labour to the school for maintenance work such as plumbing, painting and carpentry. Minister Masutha applauded the hardworking offenders who showed dedication when given an opportunity to give back to the communities they have wronged. “Today is an opportunity for our offenders to showcase the kind of positive contribution they would be able to make in the development of society if they were given the chance to return to society,” he said.
Siloe School for the Blind was established in 1950 by Father Augustine, a Belgian Benedictine of the Catholic Church as the first school for visually impaired black children. Minister Masutha is one of many prominent members of society who attended the school. He considers the school as having played a huge role in his upbringing and moulding him to be what he is today. He said the school has given him a priceless gift that he felt should be shared by many.
The library is equipped with amazing gadgets to assist learning, from daisy reading machines with audio books to screen magnification software and braille computers. The equipment was bought with donations from companies such as Tshikululu Social Investments on behalf of Anglo American, which donated R1.5 million, the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC), which gave R1.2 million, the National Library of South Africa and Polokwane Library. Offenders and parolees from Polokwane Management Area built new shelves and desks, and refurbished the building.
The Limpopo MEC for Education, Ishmael Kgetjepe, Kgoshigadi Chuene of the Chuene Tribal Council, the legendary Afro-pop singer, Adv. Steve Kekana, representatives from the DAC, LMN Regional Commissioner, Mr Mandla Mkabela, and Polokwane Area Commissioner, Mr Kenneth Mthombeni, were part of the celebration.
Minister Masutha, in partnership with the National Council for the Blind, will host a fundraising gala dinner on Thursday, 30 November 2017 to help more schools.