Outside the original Pato JSS back in the day!
Outside the original Pato JSS back in the day!

This project originally started back in 2004, when Pato Junior Secondary School (JSS) approached Coffee Shack staff for help.  Their school consisted of a ramshackle bunch of fallen down mud huts and they had no funds to rebuild the school.  Coffee Shack’s original plan was to raise funds to rebuild the school for them.

This however changed when the government stepped in and the Department of Education rebuilt Pato JSS; the students and teachers were ecstatic!  They then discovered that the rebuilding of the school did not necessarily mean the refitting of the furnishings… and to add to the dilemma, the contractors had used all the old furniture as firewood.

Although now housed in new classrooms, the children were sitting on the floor and so began our (slightly famous) “Are YOU sitting comfortably?” campaign to raise funds. The Pato desk and chair project became our main fundraising objective in 2004 and since then Coffee Shack guests and visitors have been opening their hearts and wallets to help.

Old and new Pato school
Pato JSS new and old.

Throughout 2005-06 we were able to raise the funds needed to furnish Pato JSS and by May 2006 they had received a total of 88 tables, 145 chairs and 50 benches.

In 2007 we assisted with Pato’s electricity supply connection and we waited and waited, but it didn’t happen.  At the same time we went to check out the desks and chairs at Coffee Bay JSS, and immediately realised that they needed to be included in our desk and chair project as well.  A school from about 8km away, Madakeni JSS also approached us to assist them with burglar bars for their new computer lab that had been donated to them, so we also obliged.

In 2008 Pato JSS was also donated a computer lab with 25 computers, and the lab required burglar bars.  We installed these and then really put some pressure on Eskom to get this school connected but sadly 2008 came to an end and Pato JSS still had no electricity.  During the year, Coffee Bay JSS received 80 chairs and 40 tables from the re-named Local Schools Support Fund.

Finally in September 2009 we saw electrical poles being erected at Pato JSS and the teachers were able to switch a plug at this school for the first time ever in April 2010!  It took 4 years from when the electrical application first went in, and after much patience, this school eventually has something which most of us take for granted everyday – electricity!

The Local Schools Support Fund lives on, due to a combination of government budget cutbacks and a lack of funds, our local rural schools continue to work hard with limited resources, a lot of resilience and some laughter and tears too!

Still new and shiny in 2006.
Still new and shiny in 2006.

We continue to support schools with requests for help as much as possible although we find that funds are running low and this year has seen a high volume of needs from our local schools. Many struggle with classrooms that were new 10 years ago but have had no maintenance and are therefore beginning to fall down, food storage is a problem in terms of hygiene and space and there are still some classes taught outside in the blazing African sun due to a consistent lack of suitable learning space.

If you would like to donate towards this project or for further information, please contact Kate: happydays@sustainablecoffeebay.org.za

PART 1: “Are YOU sitting comfortably?”
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