University partnership brings joy to Nelson Mandela Bay school playgrounds
From grey and drab to colourful and inviting — Nelson Mandela University’s human movement science and architecture departments, together with Mandela University alumnus and architect Jacques Theron, have completed enhancements to a playground and ablution facility at two schools in Gqeberha.
Through the KaziPlay project, pupils at Machiu Primary School in Bethelsdorp got a new jungle gym aimed at developing essential motor skills, while Mzimhlophe Primary School in Zwide had major renovations to ablution facilities used by both pupils and teachers.
The playground and facilities were officially opened and handed over to the schools on Wednesday.
KaziPlay is part of a 10-year collaboration between Nelson Mandela University and the University of Basel in Switzerland.
Funding was provided by Canton Basel Stadt in Switzerland, which contributed €25,261,45 (about R451,728).
NMU Professor Cheryl Walter, who is also the principal investigator for KaziBantu, said the park was specially designed to enhance children’s free play and motor skills such as climbing, jumping, running and swinging — which are all fundamental motor skills for children.
“I feel strongly that schools should be a place of joy for children. they should feel happy to come to school and having a playground like this facilitates their motor development,” Walter said.
KaziBantu is a research project that focuses on teacher and pupil health.
Of the eight schools which are part of the programme, the two schools were selected as having the most need.
“We would like to get additional funding to expand it to more schools,” Walter said.
“If you see many of our schools in the northern areas they are grey and drab.
“They do not give children joy and fun.”
Professor Uwe Pühse, from Basel, said the vision was to extend the project to other schools using the Machiu Primary School playground as a model.
“We can say a lot of words but when you see what is happening here, it is enough.
“The happy faces show that this really has a positive contribution to an active and healthy school life.
“Our KaziBantu topic is healthy and active schools.
“We think there should be no education without physical education — formal and informal.
“The physical education happens here in the schoolyard and this playground contributes to a healthy school,” he said.
The playground was built using recyclable materials while basins at the school were also lowered and a greywater recycling system was installed, to water the school garden.
Machiu principal Elroy Rhagosingh said: “We are so glad to have the partnership with the two universities which has resulted in this playpark for our pupils.
“We are very thankful as the school, staff and pupils.”
Mzimhlophe Primary School and KaziBantu co-ordinator Nonzaliseko Feni-Funda said health in the school had improved thanks to the intervention of the project.
“Since the partnership in 2019, the health of children and staff has improved.
“Children who had diseases like chickenpox were assisted, with KaziBantu bringing nurses to ensure early intervention.
“Teachers who also were not on medical aid got access to Nelson Mandela University facilities.
“We have had an improvement even in the enrolment of pupils,” she said.
On top of the upgraded toilets, the school got a pathway and its sports field was given minor touch-ups.
The designs for the playground and toilets were done in partnership with architect firm Werc.
Candidate architect Jacques Theron, from NMU, said it was essential for the projects to be inexpensive so that the schools were not burdened when it came to maintenance.
“We install a greywater system at Mzimhlophe using an inexpensive system from recyclables.
“The same for the jungle gym, all are locally sourced and will not be a burd. en.”
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