Passionate for quality, justice

Drive the dirt roads of Chintsa East and you will stumble on the colourful establishment of African Angels.

SHINING PATH: African Angels founder Lou Billet, who fell n love with the Chintsa community 13 years ago, is passionate about providing pupils from low socioeconomic backgrounds a quality education Picture: SIBONGILE NGALWA

The independent school has a name in Chintsa for giving its pupils an education with a difference.

When a Dispatch team visited they found pupils from Grade R to Grade 7 excitedly interacting with their teachers. Each class has less than 20 pupils in it, a characteristic Lou Billet believes fosters specialised attention for each pupil.

Billet said when she first saw the place five years ago, she felt compelled to turn it into a school for children in the Chintsa township and surrounding areas.

“I desired to give the parents and kids from Chintsa areas quality education as an alternative to the local public schools. We expose pupils to a quality of learning that they wouldn’t be able to afford.”

Since the school was established five years ago, the number has grown to 109 pupils in all grades. Billet said although the demand for what they offer is steadily rising, she intends to keep the school’s focus on pupils around Chintsa.

“Up to 50% of families in Chintsa townships have children at African Angels. The aim is to give pupils around here an amazing education and a chance at becoming great citizens,” she said.

A school bus makes multiple trips each morning and afternoon. The children receive a nutritious breakfast to kick-start the day ahead.

The pupils are taught to speak in English from a young age, and are exposed to computer literacy from Grade R. Billet knows each pupil by name, as well as where they live and what home they come from.

She believes a partnership between the school, the parents and the pupils makes for holistic development of the pupil. “A significant difference comes when parents are invested in their kids. When we all work together, it is better because it’s more personal.”

When she first arrived in Chintsa 13 years ago, it was for a short holiday. “I tripped over Chintsa and I’ve never wanted to leave.”

She wants to see a transformation in townships around Chintsa, and believes she is playing her small part. She has set up a container-library in the heart of the township which has over 4000 books. “The aim is to provide recreational alternatives for people because there isn’t much to do. People need to read and in order to do that, they need access to books.”

Indie Velebayi, 13, now in Grade 7, has been there since day one. She was recently told she will be going to top private girls school Diocesan School for Girls in Grahamstown on a study bursary. “I am so excited at the opportunity. I would love to be a doctor one day,” she said.

Billet is motivated by “levelling the plains for those who can’t afford it. It’s not fair that if you don’t have money you don’t qualify for good education. For me, it’s about giving each pupil a chance to experience a positive South African future.” — nonsindisoq@dispatch.co.za

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