James Gillespies High School South Africa project

I received this article from my granddaughter Jay Yule who is a former James Gillespie s High School pupil. Based on her experience the Fellowship decided to include the South Africa project as one of the humanitarian projects we will support as listed in our charities page.

Jay with children in Charles Memorial Primary School, South Africa

Charles Memorial Primary School, South Africa


James Gillespie’s High School has a link with two secondary schools in Durban, South Africa. Zwelibanzi High School and Dloko High School both of which are situated in Umlazi Township, the second largest township in South Africa.

Alex Wallace, former Principal teacher at James Gillespie’s High School set up the South Africa link with Zwelibanzi and DlokoHigh Schools. He now runs his own volunteer project in Durban called The Jabulani Project (http://jabulaniproject.blogspot.co.uk ) .

The Jabulani Project works with a number of organizations in Durban and Umlazi, one of which is SISCO.

SISCO is a street children’s shelter for young boys. I feel that visiting SISCO was the hardest part of my trip but opened my eyes the most to the injustices that go on in Durban everyday. At SISCO I met a boy called Phemele, he was 13 years old and told us that he had been living on the street for 8 years before coming to SISCO, and that he left his home because his father abused him. To think that he had been living on the street for 8 years of his life and he was only 13 years old was incomprehensible. His trousers were too big for him, he only had a jumper on with no tshirt and had no shoes, none of the boys at SISCO had shoes.

I have never been one to have a very maternal instinct but after speaking to Phemele and hearing his ambitions and stories and knowing that it was unlikely he would achieve them and knowing that nobody had been there in his life to love him or care for him, made me want to take him away from the poverty and misery he was living in and come and live with me.

I spoke to one of the girls from Jabulani who visited SISCO twice a week and asked what the future holds for the boys we had met. She told me as she started to tear up that the boys were only allowed to stay at SISCO until they were 18 years old and with little literary capabilities and no qualifications the likelihood of them finding a job was small and the reality was that most boys just end up back on the street.

After asking the boys what they wanted to be when they grew up, we heard lawyer, doctor, pilot, etc. All of which required an education. This made me really realise how much we take for granted and that we get all this for free whilst there are children in the world who crave an education but have no way of getting it. It made me sad. With the help of Jabulani, they have managed to bring in an art teacher and the volunteers from Jabulani help as much as they can with literary skills to help improve the capabilities of the young boys at SISCO.

We also visited the Primary school that James Gillespie’s Primary school is linked with, Charles Memorial Primary School. A lot of the children at Charles Memorial were HIV positive, which alone is a devastating thought. After being serenaded by their beautiful singing, one of the songs was called ‘we will never give up’. We proceeded to be bombarded by excitable children climbing all over us.

These kids were so overjoyed to see us, they stroked our faces, plaited our hair, stole our sunglasses and just hugged us and would not let go. Every child at the school was given a pencil case and a toothbrush and tube of toothpaste. Some of the children did not know what a toothbrush was and we had to give them a quick lesson on how to brush their teeth.

One girl I met held on to my arm the whole time we were there and teachers had to prise her off me when we were leaving. Although neither of us could understand each other because she couldn’t speak English and I couldn’t speak Zulu we still shared a connection and I still cried when I had to leave her behind. It was just so hard to walk away knowing that they were going home to so little compared to what we had.

Being in South Africa has made me realise how much I have, and how much I have just been given and not had to work for. I have learned so much from my experiences there and the people I met there I will never forget.

Jay Yule JGHS FP