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Old Naledi school reaches out to vulnerable children


Buitumelo Phama, Headistress at the Old Naledi Education Centre, and Susan Alison Jones, Mennonite Church Canada Witness worker.

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Photo 2 - Release 4 - January 2009
Old Naledi Education Centre offers a second chance for students who have not been able to complete their studies in the public school system.

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December 12, 2008
- Dan Dyck

Gaberone, Botswana — In the neighbourhood of Old Naledi, unemployment rates are high, and children are vulnerable.

Education for all children is provided in government funded schools, however, neglected children find it difficult to attend. Children who are overlooked often roam the streets, with little or no prompting or encouragement to attend classes. The Old Naledi Education Centre, founded by Rev. Kassai of the United Evangelical Church in 1973, began by gathering children from the streets and feeding them breakfast – followed by a morning of teaching.

Buitumelo Phama, Headmistress, has worked here since 1981. “Fees are small… we accept students for $600 pula (about $90 CDN) for the whole year,” she said. “We also organize sponsors for students from families who cannot pay, but if no one can pay and no sponsors can be found, then their education is free.” Today the school also helps older children who have dropped out of classes or have struggled to learn in public school.

Mennonites have had a long standing relationship with the Centre. Rainham Mennonite Church in Selkirk, Ont. has sponsored a student for several consecutive years. In the summer of 2007, Susan Alison Jones, an international worker in Gaberone with support from Mennonite Church Canada Witness and Mennonite Mission Network through Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission, facilitated a three month volunteer term at the Centre for Monica Shank of Valleyview Mennonite Church in London, Ont. This in turn led an extended family member to organize a Christmas fundraiser potluck that raised $1000 for the school in 2007.

“Monica came and organized assemblies and told the children about the word of God. Mennonite ministries helped us very much,” said Phama. “Please pray for us so that the school will not be closed, so we can continue to collect vulnerable children from the street, and for the teachers who who earn little money every month, that they can continue to be hopeful.” Phama said the school’s greatest need is to have a volunteer to train staff in computer skills. They have computers, but not the training needed to use them, she said.