“Siya Kolisi” enthrals spectators in the streets of Langa, Cape Town, with his tackles and accurate passes, but this is not the 28-year-old Springbok captain. It is in fact 13-year-old Luxolo Ntsholo who has adopted the moniker.
The Grade 7 pupil will be jetting to Tokyo, Japan, next year to represent South Africa at the 2020 Olympic Games. A learner at the Mokone Primary School in Langa, Luxolo refuses to let his background determine his future. He idolises Kolisi who also came from humble beginnings but dared to dream big.
Luxolo’s parents say the rugby bug bit Luxolo from a very young age. “My son loves rugby so much. He even makes his own rugby ball using old socks and plastic bags. He is convinced he will one day captain and coach the Springboks,” says his mother, Nokuthula Ntsholo.
His skills would not have been noticed had he not joined the Vusa Rugby and Learning Academy programme, of which Kolisi is an ambassador and where Luxolo is a top performer. The academy that brings about social upliftment to the children of Langa has seen its partnership with the Shoprite Group not only result in regular meals for young learners but also the planting of two food gardens – one of which is at Mokone Primary.
THE SHOPRITE GROUP PARTNERS WITH COMMUNITIES
Commenting on Shoprite’s partnership with the academy and the retailer’s hunger relief programme, Lunga Schoeman, the Group’s CSI Manager, says: “Our communities are home to our employees and customers and, as such, remain the heartbeat of our business. As Africa’s most accessible and affordable retailer, we dedicate most of our CSI resources to fighting hunger. We work with schools – like Mokone Primary – community groups and recognized non-governmental organisations, amongst others, to roll out this extensive programme.”
Luxolo comments: “The Vusa programme is very helpful because we learn a lot in the classroom, the garden and on the rugby field. I want to study sports after matric and continue playing rugby.”
“We are extremely proud to see the progress
the school is making in maintaining their garden and the difference it has made
in the learners’ lives,” continues Schoeman. To date, 80% of the produce in the
school’s garden planted a year ago has survived, despite the intense drought
conditions experienced in the Western Cape until recently.
Mokone Primary School’s food garden provides fresh vegetables including beetroot, cabbage, spinach, onion and cauliflower, all of which are used in the school’s nutrition programme with any surplus sold to community members. 40% of the vegetables consumed by the learners at the school come from the garden. A water tank and grey water system have also been installed to provide the relevant infrastructure for maintenance purposes. The success of the garden has attracted the attention of the government, who now employ two full-time gardeners to help the school maintain and expand the project.
The school further established an EcoClub to improve learner participation, diversity and productivity. “Our hope is that by helping with cultivation and doing their part, the learners come to understand that they are making their own positive contribution to society. Through horticulture, they are learning important skills to help fight hunger and ensure food security for themselves and others,” explains Mokone’s principal, Dominic Raphahlelo.
AIDING FOOD SECURITY
With its implementation partner, Food and Trees for Africa, the Shoprite Group’s national food garden drive aims to reduce food insecurity through sustainable agriculture and create income-generating opportunities for vulnerable communities.
Communities are consulted before a project is initiated to ensure a sense of community investment. “We use a tried-and-tested methodology to identify potential beneficiaries based on their ability to improve the food security of their immediate area. The initiative’s success is also a testament to it being well run and having the best monitoring and evaluation processes in place” says Robyn Hills, Food Gardens for Africa Programme Manager.
Commenting on the Shoprite Group’s focus on food security, Nosipho Gontsi, National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) Coordinator, says:” President Ramaphosa has called on all sectors of the economy to rally together to achieve the South Africa we all desire. Duly, we are very encouraged by the work that the Shoprite Group is doing to fight hunger in partnership with our schools and communities at large. We would call on more corporates to follow Shoprite’s lead and do their bit to address the challenges faced by our country.”