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Mpuluzi Thusong Service Centre (Mpumalanga)


Opening Doors to Science: Mpuluzi Community for Science

Robson Madi, helping to open doors for the future

Robson Madi, helping to open doors for the future

Community organisations are drawn in as key service-providers at Thusong Service Centres, to support the working partnership between local communities and government. Mr Robson Madi, selected by the community to be the leader of six local projects, operates from the Mpuluzi Thusong Service Centre. Acting as a liaison between the community and government departments, he provides invaluable support to the Thusong Service Centre programme. By identifying and meeting the needs of the community, community organisations and projects facilitate the delivery of socio-economic programmes for the poor and disadvantaged. They are the focus of the development-communication approach, the rationale behind Thusong Service Centres.

Science teachers in the Mpuluzi area will soon be able to take pupils to the Fernie Science Projects Laboratory for hands-on experience. A community initiative, the National Development Agency contributed R1,4 million to the realisation of the project. Building of a science laboratory, a computer centre, a sewing laboratory and six classrooms, is currently underway. At last, pupils from eight high schools have a place for experimenting with science and putting theory into practice. Teachers in the area can now make a comprehensive contribution to the training of South Africa’s future scientists. The foresight shown in this community initiative is an example of how we can all contribute to placing South Africa at the forefront of science and technology development.

The building site was bought from the primary school next door, after permission was granted from the local chief to use the land for the project. A dedicated and unassuming project administrator, Robson Madi wrote the proposal for the project. Selected by the community for his dedication to the development of Mpuluzi, he administers a cluster of five other projects. The HIV/AIDS and home-based care projects are both run from the clinic. Other projects benefiting the community are the poultry, sewing and food-security (agriculture) projects.

Mr Madi with some of the children who will soon be using the new science laboratories

Mr Madi with some of the children who will soon be using the new science laboratories

The disabled empowering themselves

Patrick, a beneficiary of the Zimeleni disabled project, shows off his wares

Patrick, a beneficiary of the Zimeleni disabled project, shows off his wares

Face-to-face interaction between government and the people is a cornerstone of development communication. With the focus on empowering the poor and disadvantaged, such communities are the main targets of government’s socio-economic programmes. The experience of disabled people at Mpuluzi shows how an enthusiastic Thusong Service Centre can play a critical role in bettering the lives of communities. Mr Mduduzi Phiri is one such person as he has played a role in co-ordinating a marginalised group and a government department, for access to socio-economic services.

The aim of the Zimeleni Disabled Project is to create self-sufficiency and less reliance on social services. Evidence of the determination of the Mpuluzi disabled community is the courtyard of rooms they have built for work and socialising. At an imbizo co-ordinated by the Department of Economic Development and Planning (DEDP), they expressed their need for garden and office tools.

Subsequently Mr Phiri, centre manager of the Mpuluzi Thusong Service Centre, co-ordinated a handing-over ceremony between the project members and the DEDP.

The community was supplied with a fence and gardening equipment, including a sprinkler, hose pipe, a wheelbarrow, a spade and rakes. Tables and chairs were also donated, saving the group the discomfort of having to sit on the floor. The hand-made table cloths presented by the group in return as a sign of their gratitude, is symbolic of its commitment to be sustainable and independent. Mr Phiri also arranged access ramps for the disabled, to the Thusong Service Centre. On this occasion, he brought services right to their doorstep by organising the ceremony on the project’s premises, on the hill facing the Thusong Service Centre.

Now there are two immediate and significant challenges to face. As centre manager, Mr Phiri will liaise with the relevant government departments to meet the following needs:

  • The first is the need for regular assistance and advice on gardening techniques, particularly regarding the correct pest-control methods
  • The second is the need for new buildings, as the existing kitchen and three working rooms are mud constructions and unsafe for long-term use.

Funds are necessary to provide this energetic group with a safe and dry place in summer and a warm place in the winter.

The Department of Social Services, which operates from the Thusong Service Centre, is moving to form co-operatives so that the group can ultimately meet its own needs. The jovial Patrick fills one of the work rooms with the wire cars he makes. He prides himself in being the expert wire-car builder in his area and wants to sell his toys to contribute to the growth of the community. Epilepsy hasn’t interfered with his love for life, his joy and his contagious smile − reflecting the spirit of the Zimeleni Disabled Project.

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