Schools’ recovery slow-going after fire

Karen Breytenbach from the Chris Otto Foundation and principal Nomthandazo Zweni stand in the upgraded space where the new multi-purpose library will be.

Holy Cross Primary School is still recovering after a fire caused major damage in February.

The fire destroyed three classrooms, the computer lab, kitchen and the space for the new library (“Overwhelming support for gutted school,” Tatler, February 14).

For the past month the school has been working on restoring the library which they had started working on last November (“New library to Honour Holy Cross pupil,” Tatler, November 29 2019).

Karen Breytenbach, project director of Chris Otto Foundation Trust, which is helping the school rebuild its library, said the children urgently need a new multi-purpose library not only to improve literacy but also as a safe place for pupils to do their homework while they wait for their taxis in the afternoons.

The foundation, along with a design company in Cape Town and more than 50 volunteers, helped design and paint a colourful mural, of trees, nuns and children, in the new library space.

Magician Jacques Le Sueur also came to the school to entertain the children for free while the volunteers worked on the mural. Later in the month, the school invited him back to put on a show and they were able to give him R1500 for his services.

Ms Breytenbach said the foundation is assisting the school to launch a campaign to raise R100000 to fit the room with bookshelves, desks and other items that will turn it into a real library.

The library has over 3000 books which were donated last year by several donors, including The Bookery.

Principal Nomthandazo Zweni said the school is getting overwhelming support. Last week two insurance companies donated R35000 that will go towards painting their classrooms. The school also still receives food donations for the feeding scheme and were recently also given two new fridges, a stove and microwave.

“The morale of the staff and pupils has been good, we barely talk about the fire,” Ms Zweni said.

Ms Zweni said volunteers, the community and private companies have assisted the school’s recovery but the actual reconstruction of the school is still being assessed by insurance companies. The delay she said is that the building is very old and has heritage significance.

The school’s fund-raising is ongoing and on Wednesday June 12 they will host an art auction, at the Craft and Graft Gallery, 2 Gordon Street, Gardens, to help raise funds for the new library. Tickets are R100 and includes drinks and canapés. To book, email