Luleka Gweje, 27, who has not so far found the money to realise her dream of qualifying formally as a teacher, helps about 50 pupils from Grade 1 to Grade 7 with their homework and life skills every day after school.
Through her Abanqobi (Winners) Reading Club, which she started up in July in Orange Grove near the East London Airport, Gweje has been on a campaign to keep children busy, instil a love of learning and empower their minds.
The unemployed mother of four decided to start the reading club so that children would not find themselves doing drugs, abusing alcohol, or being prostitutes, practices she says are rife in the area.
She wants to help the children be literate and achieve better marks.
“I decided to collect them from a young age because I am protective of them. They are so young, innocent and fragile for this place,” she said.
Gweje, who matriculated when she was 22, is a mentor with the Bumb’ingomso Project, and says she wants to set an example.
“I want the children in my community to look up to me. I am no longer the bad girl I used to be.
“My life has changed. I love seeing my kids happy,” she said.
The books they use were donated by Bumb’ingomso and Sinomonde Primary School, which they use at a nearby Abet prefab structure when it is available. When the structure is occupied Gweje and the pupils use an open field.
Thandeka Goyi, a delighted mother of 12-year-old Zikho, who attends the reading club after school, said she loves what Gweje does as it keeps the children busy and happy after school.
“What she is doing is a very good and useful thing for our community because she helps the children, and us as the parents as well, by helping them with homework. She is very patient and works very well with them.
“Zikho enjoys the club. I was surprised when I heard her the other day saying she feels free around her she is like her friend.”
Gweje, a former Umtiza High School pupil, said one of the reasons she never gave up was because of her Life Orientation (LO) teacher, Nobuntu Totolo, who pushed her to pass matric.
And Totolo spoke equally highly of her former pupil. “Luleka has always had leadership skills. I have always seen potential in her. She just needed a push in the right direction. It has been proven with her that LO is a relevant subject because she adopted those life skills she was taught.
“I had a duty to support her to stand strong through her situation. We are very proud of her at the school. I wish all our kids could apply LO in their lives like she did,” she said.
“Goals are achievable. Nothing can stand in your way. Look at Luleka now.” —