Hout Bay’s Louise van Bala has been named the Lead SA Western Cape Hero of the Month for August.
In February, Ms Van Bala established the Olympians Academy, a school for Grade 1s unable to find places at schools. The prestigious award recognises South Africans making a difference in their communities.
Ms Van Bala runs the school from the Hout Bay bowling green with the help of two teachers. She said she was “humbled and shocked” to receive the award.
The school caters to children from Hangberg and Imizamo Yethu who have not managed to be enrolled in schools at foundation-phase level. In some cases, schools will not accept them because they are deemed too old for Grades R to 3.
At the Olympians Academy, they are taught how to read, write, count and learn life skills.
Ms Van Bala said numbers had fallen from an initial intake of 40 pupils in February to 15. Parents pay R400 for fees and aftercare.
The children are also fed every Wednesday, thanks to donations of porridge from the Dominican Grimley School for the Deaf. The school also arranges soccer and dance classes.
“Sometimes we have kids coming to us in the middle of the year. We believe every child should have the chance to learn,” Ms Van Bala said. “Our facilities are in serious need of work, so we are appealing to maintenance companies and businesses who might assist us with painting work and other maintenance.”
Ms Van Bala said providing a learning experience based on a home-schooling concept had its challenges, especially since certain stipulations set out in the Education Act were difficult to meet. For one, classrooms had to be the size of those found at public schools.
“Most our kids are from underprivileged backgrounds, so for them the size of the classrooms would not matter.
“There are also stipulations that tutors need to be provided for certain subjects. But paying for the services of outside tutors is expensive.
“It is our belief that teaching the child should be emphasised, and we want the education department to recognise that the education the children are receiving at the school is the same as as they would receive in the foundation phase at a public school.”