Griet Rossouw (teacher), Anna Boesak (kitchen staff), Gerhard, Liezel, Vickie and Trisa Bruwer (farm owners), and Llewellyn Brooks (GWK) with the children after the ribbon was cut.

At the opening of the first early childhood development (ECD) centre of its kind in the area, Pele Wa Modise, head of the department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development in the Northern Cape, quoted former president Nelson Mandela: “Education is the most powerful weapon that you can use to change the world.”

Pele Wa Modise also left his palm print as proof of his department’s support.

This centre is an initiative of agribusiness GWK in collaboration with farm owners and is aimed at developing farmworkers’ children ages two to five. The centre, built from scratch on the farm Picton of Gerhard Bruwer from the Genade Boerdery Group near Douglas in the Northern Cape, is the first in this project. The dream is to build 100 ECD centres on farms over the next few years.

The newly built school.

Bright futures beckon

“One day, these children will have great opportunities that they’ll know has its roots in the agricultural sector, where an investment was made in their early education and development. We believe that they will fondly remember their time as kids on the farm as the best years of their lives, and that they will want to work in this wonderful industry,” says Neil de Klerk, Executive Head: GWK Group Marketing and Communication. “The team at GWK is constantly looking for ways to invest in our communities as close to the farm as possible – investments with proper value. We, and our shareholders, want to make a positive contribution to South Africa’s future.”

One of the newly built classrooms.

At the moment, the centre provides three job opportunities, including a teacher to the 25 children and kitchen staff to supply two healthy meals and snacks to pupils every day. The centre, which was built with a capacity for 50 children, will soon be filled with children from neighbouring farms, as it will also serve as an afterschool care facility.

Additional investments

“To teach kids, is an act of love,” says Llewellyn Brooks, managing director of the GWK Group. “We dream of a positively changed culture, with all our partners involved.”

Each child received a school T-shirt.

At the opening ceremony, every child received a backpack and had their hands painted to leave their palm prints on concrete blocks that will form part of the structure. Their parents, who are workers on the farm, are overjoyed at the opportunity to leave their children at a safe centre where they will be prepared for school.

Each child also received a backpack for school.

According to Bruwer, the centre will include a recycling project, where children will be able to exchange waste material for fresh fruit. They will also be taught to create their own vegetable gardens and plant trees.

Investing in the communities

GWK has always been passionate about investing in the communities they work and live in. The opening of this centre is only one of the ways in which the company gives back to its community and is only the start of a bigger dream.

Griet Rossouw, the teacher, comes from Outreach Educational Centre in Breipaal, Douglas, where she volunteered for a year and developed a passion for early childhood development.

Wa Modise concluded the opening ceremony by reminding parents of their responsibility towards their children and teachers and said that this initiative by GWK and farmers should be looked at the same way they look at their crops.

“If we plant the right seed with this centre and nurture these kids with the right education, one day we will have a harvest of bright young people with a bright future in South Africa.” –Press release, GWK