HOW THE PRIMARY SCHOOL IN VRYGROND
Note by Jonathan Schrire,
Chairman of Vrygrond Community Development Trust.
28 January 2008.
Ten years ago I became involved in forming a community body in
Vrygrond, supposedly the oldest squatter camp in the W. Cape,
near Muizenberg, a suburb of Cape Town. The residents on this
body, - the Vrygrond Community Development Trust, - then asked
me stay on as their Chairman which I have been ever since.
The Trust first obtained from the City Council the 52 hectares
site upon which Vrygrond is situated. We then engaged with the
local authority and the Dept of Housing to obtain state
subsidies for all the shacks; this money was then used to build
1,600 brick houses with toilets, water, electricity, which
replaced the shacks. At the time this was the largest delivery
of sub-economic housing in the Southern Cape Peninsula.
In April 1999 this trust was short-listed for the President’s
Masakhane Award for outstanding Non Governmental Organisations.
The housing took about 4 years to complete. After that we raised
funds to build other facilities including a Creche and a
Library. The Creche and Library have been very successful; - the
Library just won an annual award, made by the Library &
Information Association of SA, for the best Branch Library in
the W. Cape for 2006.
The Creche caters for about 180 kids who get food as well
as pre-school education. This Trust pays the monthly running
costs of these facilities through donor funding.
The population of approx 9,000 people in Vrygrond includes many
children of varying ages. Vrygrond had no school of its own and
the children went to schools in the neighbouring suburbs. These
are often of poor quality, and many kids were deterred from
going to school by bad weather and the risk of muggings.
When the new Vrygrond was built, the town planners left a large
3 hectare site in the middle for a school and sports field.
However nobody realistically thought a school would ever be
built there. The W. Cape Education Dept acknowledged the need
for a school, but they listed another 65 communities elsewhere
which were in more urgent need of schools. Left to the state,
Vrygrond might get a school in 15 years.
In early 2005 however, prompted by difficulties in placing the
children from our Creche in Primary schools, and encouraged by
discussions with friends and supporters, a decision was made to
try and raise enough money to build a school. The concept
started modestly, even thinking of using modified shipping
containers as the basic units. At an early stage Dennis Fabian,
a close friend who runs a big architectural practice, threw his
professional weight behind the project.
Eventually Dennis and his office designed a proper school with
12 classrooms which would cater for over 400 children. Using his
contacts, Dennis put together a team of professional and
building firms, many of whom worked either for free or at a
The cost of R6 million (£430,000 or $900,000) seemed daunting
and even as we set about trying to raise this, we were
constantly deciding what was essential and what could be
omitted. The Hall, which is now one of the outstanding buildings
in Vrygrond, was planned, but right until the last minute we
were going to leave it out for lack of money. But with the early
support of a few key funders who came in at the beginning (Dave
Altschuler, Jonny Levy and Ronnie Harris), we began to raise the
At the same time we were raising money, I was engaged in
meetings with the Dept of Education and various groups within
Vrygrond. The Dept agreed that if we built the school, they
would take over the annual costs and would run it as a state
school. So we knew that the basic running costs would be
By early 2007 we ‘pressed the trigger’. Work started on site in
June 2007 and within six months the school was finished.
On the first day of the school term 16th January 2008,
Capricorn Primary School opened.
The school is what is called a Foundation Phase Primary School
which caters for 4 grades, - Grades R through 3, - it has 12
classrooms and approx 400 children between 6 and 10 years old
(35 per class). It is designed in such a way that it can be
extended by building on another 12 classrooms for the other 4
grades of primary school.
The participants in this project are determined that this school
be a model of how to provide good quality education to a
disadvantaged community (much as the Library and Pre-school
Creche have become in their spheres). The Dept of Education
shares this vision.
This requires a lot of extra educational input over and above
the basics which the Dept of Education provides, and our
overwhelming need at the moment is to find funding to pay the
extra teachers, assistants, social worker and remedial
professionals, which the State will not provide.
For details of the EDUCATIONAL ISSUES
and FUNDING NEEDS please go to those
tags on the website.