Seven Fountains Primary School began as a modest farm school and was one of the only schools in the poor, rural community of KwaZulu-Natal. When Oprah first visited, the school was in a building with no heat, limited running water and electricity, four toilets, dirt floors, no playground and broken windows. Despite these conditions, close to 1,000 eager children attended school.
Before the school's makeover, the children were often forced to learn in overcrowded classrooms.
Some students used cement blocks as desks.
Some worked outside on chairs, having no desk at all.
Despite the physical condition of their school, the children and their teachers came to school each and every day because of their dedication to learning. Oprah's Angel Network recognized what a new school could do for this community and, in partnership with the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education, funded the construction of a new facility at a cost of R12 million (less than $2 million in American money) the same budget as other KwaZulu-Natal public schools of this size. "We spent the same amount of money that the government spends on all the schools. That's what we wanted to saywith this kind of budget, this is what you can do," Oprah says.
Seven Fountains serves as a model for future schools built in KwaZulu-Natal and throughout Africa. East Coast Architects from South Africa, selected to design and build the school, worked important sustainability features such as solar energy and water conservation into the new school and conducted workshops with students, teachers and parents.
Local resources were used whenever possible. About 250 people were employed during constructionall from the local area, where 65 percent of the population earns no monthly income at all.
Landscaped gardens supply vegetables and allow for students to learn more about agriculture, natural science and nutrition. Other innovative sustainable energy features include roundabouts to pump water, solar-powered streetlights and solar water heating. Many unemployed mothers took an adobe brick-making workshop and were paid to make the bricks used for a special classroom.
In the multi-purpose classrooms, based on traditional design and built with indigenous materials, children will learn about their culture.
Now the school is a place for fun and learning—the new computer lab is the only one in the community. On the first day of class, the students were asked how many had ever seen a computer. Only 1 of 1,000 said they had. Finally, these computers will provide a window to the world.
Edupeg™ is training teachers at Seven Fountains and surrounding schools in math, and Oprah's Angel Network has equipped the school with an innovative SMART Board™ that allows teachers to make more effective presentations.
MultiChoice™ also donated equipment and educational programming so teachers and learners can engage in education opportunities beyond the classroom.
Before, all meals were prepared using one pot. Now, the facility includes a kitchen where healthy meals can be prepared for all the students. With 25 new classrooms, three multi-purpose rooms, a library, a computer lab and sports fields, the new school represents hope for the children and families.
The new school will give many students the opportunity to live a better life. "Oprah's Angel Network has given a wonderful gift, namely the gift of education," says KwaZulu-Natal MEC of Education Ina Cronj. "Once a child has received his or her education, it can never be taken away."
The new Seven Fountains also represents hope to the community, which will be able to use the school facilities to conduct workshops and activities.
Taking into consideration the needs of all of those who learn, work and live in the area, wheelchair accessible ramps and low thresholds are present, and many classrooms have mezzanines where students can learn in smaller groups at their own pace.
Oprah, local dignitaries and the community came together in March 2007 to celebrate the school's official opening.
"Seven Fountains Primary School is a wonderful example of what a community can do when it comes together with a common goal to help educate its children," Oprah says. "The Seven Fountains School is an example of what school in South Africa can become. And it is my prayer that the power of education may fuel, may inspire, and empower the lives of learners for generations to come." Read about the Creating Schools project.