14 July 2022

By Steven Lebere, Chief Executive Officer, Adopt-a-School Foundation

For Mandela Month and as part of its 20th anniversary commemorations, Adopt-a-School Foundation is tackling the need of many school children for school shoes. School shoes are part of school uniform wear in South Africa.

In partnership with local sneaker brand Bathu, Adopt-a-School is driving a school shoes donation campaign to restore dignity and ease the walk to school for learners. But Adopt-a-School isn’t taking this step alone. The organisation is calling for individual and corporate donations to make a difference this Mandela Month. On 18 July, Mandela Day, corporates also participated through donations and volunteering in the packing of new shoes, hygiene packs and food parcels for distribution to schools around the country.

According to the National Household Travel Survey, ten million learners across the country use their feet to get to school. Chief among the reasons learners walk to school is the lack of transport and the expense of transport.

All that walking wears shoes down and very many learners go without school shoes because their parents or caregivers cannot afford them. The lack of shoes may impact learning. Shoes protect feet, and this is the key function of school shoes for children. A good quality school shoe has features that boosts their longevity and makes them durable to stand up to long walks and hours of playing. For learners who walk to and from school, school shoes make that commute much more feasible. Paved roads and sidewalks are not a given and schools shoes protect learners’ feet. In winter, they keep young feet warm and dry. This may aid children to focus in class without the distraction of physical discomfort.

Learners without school shoes may lose learning days because they don’t have protection from the elements or dangers of rough terrain. If they have shoes that are in poor shape, too big or too small, it could cause injury which results in further lost learning days because they physically cannot commute. Some learners might avoid school because having their peers know they do not have shoes or wearing extremely worn-out ones leads to feelings of shame. Some teachers may even prevent learners from being in class because they don’t have shoes, and this further contributes to the feeling of school being a hostile environment where the child’s dignity is compromised. Dignity is likely an important function of school shoes. It completes the school uniform and may contribute to a sense of confidence and even pride in meeting the school dress code.

Nelson Mandela famously said that how we treat our children reflects the soul of society. Adopt-a-School calls on us to provide an item that many consider basic and take for granted, but which for many children is a privilege. Let us walk the talk and give children the shoes that’ll help them take the steps towards a more secure future.

Adopt-a-School, a partner entity of Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation, has for 20 years now addressed the academic, infrastructural, social and security environments in its adopted schools through a holistic, inclusive model called Whole School Development. It includes improving infrastructure, school leadership and management, educator development, and the social welfare of learners.