By Sandy Mattison
On Friday, 3 August 2018, the learners of St Paul’s Primary in Bokaap received a brand new, state-of-the-art computer centre. The centre was formally opened by the Principal, Mrs Mgudlwa, in a celebratory ribbon cutting ceremony. The centre is fully equipped with state-of –the-art computers, accessories and software in a fully refurbished room with new workstations, chairs and a luxurious carpet!
The story of how the donation of this new centre was made possible is a heart-warming example of what can be achieved when relative strangers share a goal to give children from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to reach their full potential.
In early 2017, Sascha Bierberg, Financial Director of Cirtech Electronics, approached Mrs Mgudlwa with the generous offer of 20 computers. The first obstacle to overcome was getting the relevant tax certificates to Cirtech before financial year end. Jansie Rautenbach and the Symphonia team were enormously helpful.
The next challenge was to repair the floor of the room ear-marked for the new centre, paint it and install power points and lighting. The before and after pictures only tell half the story – the wooden floor was a safety hazard and had to be repaired and the whole room had to be rewired. In addition to this, the electrical cabling and fiber optic lines to the new centre also had to be installed.
Workstations were needed to install the computers on, as were chairs for the learners to sit on. And the whole room had to be made secure with burglar guards on the windows and a security gate.
Brent Laaks, Head of Project Management in Real Estate Development at Woolworths came to the rescue. He and his team ran cake sales for months to raise funds, gave days of their own time to paint the room, made curtains for the windows and then persuaded their own service providers to donate the time and materials to do all the electrical work and shop-fitting necessary to get the room ready for the installation of the computers.
Then Sascha and his team of volunteers from Cirtech purpose built a server for the school, which they installed, together with the 30 networked computers.
The next challenge was to get software, compatible with WCED specifications, installed on the computers. It was the turn of Cecil de Wet, Services Manager of the Centre for e-Innovation in the Department of the Premier and his team of software engineers, Kyle Nefdt, Andre Pietersen, Quinton De Wet, Aqeel Mohammed and Rudy Sands to rise to the challenge.
It took almost 18 months for the entire project to be completed. At least 40 people from 7 different organisations played a part, all of them volunteering their own time and money to ensure the success of the project. Along the way, frustrations were overcome and new friendships were forged. It is truly remarkable what can be achieved when a group of caring individuals work together for a common good.