Mlekeleli Khuzwayo, 2015 activator from KwaMashu in Durban, is giving 100 school uniforms to less privileged children in 10 primary schools at Inanda, Ntuzuma and Kwamashu townships.
During December holidays last year, Mlekeleli looked at how people spend money celebrating Festive season, while others have none. Khuzwayo thought of what he could do for those who could not afford, and the idea of future planning sparked him.
Although Khuzwayo could not buy them holiday luxuries, his plan was to focus on what comes after. “I thought of school children whose parents cannot afford to buy school uniforms. I started asking my friends for help, and some of them have been very supportive”, he said.
The Unleash Greatness within Campaign was initiated in January 2016 with the aim to reinforce “the community spirit, ubuntu and taking care of each other,” according to Mlekeleli.
“My motto is: ‘black man you’re on your own’ because we must take care of ourselves. If we don’t look out for each other, who is going to do it for us.” Added Khuzwayo when explaining the idea behind his campaign.
Khuzwayo ‘s initiative focuses on the connection between the child’s confidence and school uniform, and how it influences children’s performance at school. “When children see that they look the same as others, even though their parents don’t afford, they gain confidence,” he said.
Being a physical trainer and the founder of Triple B Fitness Family helped Mlekeleli identify schools and get support from gym members.
He said that there are teachers who go to his gym, so he told them about this campaign and they helped with identifying schools, and sponsoring the campaign.
“The people that helped in this campaign are those in my network. I’m sure if we marketed it well, we would be very far. Business people need to invest in young people”, he adds.
Zanele Shelembe, a teacher at UThando Public Primary School, in Inanda, said her school is thrilled to be selected because many learners come from disadvantaged homes, “As teachers we try to help but we can’t help all of them.”
She agrees with Khuzwayo that uniforms play a huge role on how learners see themselves. “This is a good programme because it will help them emotionally and physically- you know what they say, if you look good, you also feel good about yourself,” Shelembe added.
Learners will get their uniforms during the Triple B’s annual gym event to be held at Ntuzuma G Sport Ground on 12 March 2016. “Their schools will be invited, I want the Department of Education to also intervene because if they want children to wear school uniforms that they don’t have, it’s a problem”, says Khuzwayo.
Kwazulu Natal Department of Education, communications manager, Muzi Mahlambi, said communities need more initiatives of this kind, “We welcome any contribution that will assist our learners to have dignity. We encourage to have many Khuzwayos,” he said.
Khuzwayo encourages people to continue supporting this campaign, even after 12 March because school uniforms are always a problem for those who can’t afford. “We are not taking cash but instead we give out a list of specific ages, sizes and schools of the kids chosen. In cases where someone donates money, Tripple B account details are given to that person, we then scan and email proof of purchase back to that person”.
But, this will not be a once-off event, Mlekeleli is also planning a function at the end of the year, where matriculants will only be allowed to the venue if they donate their school uniforms. “I want to stop grade 12 learners from destroying schools uniforms, and show them that they can give it to someone else.”
Mlekeleli believes that ubuntu means that if you have something that your neighbour doesn’t have, you should give them before they even ask you, and you should not expect anything in return or repayment.
“Today a parent puts under the bed shoes if they no longer fit their children, but they know that there is a child from next door who doesn’t have shoes. What happened to Ubuntu? Someone has to stand up and bring it back, in my community I want to be that person”, Khuzwayo’s words.
One day, Mlekeleli wants to have a house, where learners come for breakfast on their way to school, and come to do homework together after school, “There is so much on our young people. We need to love them. We need to take care of them. That’s what I want to do.”
He says all activators who want to collaborate with him are welcome, “Activators are welcome to work with me in pushing this, but I don’t want lazy people. I don’t want people who make good plans and disappear when it comes to implementation,” he adds.
As a gym coach, many people know him as a health guru, even his broad-fit shoulders and legs say it all, not to mention the ‘six pack’. When asked where this passion for children comes from, he said, “I’m an artist. I travel a lot. When you go to other countries and realise what other people do for their countries, you just realise that we aren’t doing enough,” he said with his loud deep-toned voice.
But, still, that doesn’t fully answer where Mlekeleli’s passion comes from, or we all can’t really explain why some things are more important than others? There are many other young people like Mlekeleli in the ACTIVATE! network, who are always revived to bring change for the public good in their communities.