Kumba Iron Ore, a business unit of the Anglo American Group, today officially opened the first of four solar-powered Internet schools at Jiyana Secondary School in Tembisa.  The project included a solar powered internet school, a 17m x 30m vegetable garden to support the schools’ feeding scheme, a bio-digester which produces gas to be used for cooking by the school, a waste recycling station and a revamp of existing buildings.

Kumba has committed to donating three more of these solar powered internet schools in the Tsantsabane and John Taolo Gaetsewe Municipalities in the Northern Cape and Thabazimbi Local Municipality in Limpopo. The total commitment for the initiative amounts to R10.5 million.

In partnership with the Kumba Environmental department, Kumba is committed to promoting a greener and pollution free environment, and the construction of a bio-digester, which will use food waste generated at the school kitchen, is testament to this. The vegetable garden will ensure continued supply of organic waste into the bio-digester and therefore making this project sustainable. These projects will save the school money and contribute towards a cleaner environment.

Head of Public Affairs at Kumba Iron Ore, Yvonne Mfolo said, “Kumba recognises its enormous responsibility to contribute to the well-being and prosperity of the communities in which we operate. As education is one of our focus areas, we believe that our clean energy interventions at schools will have a higher impact, by improving learner performance.”

The solar powered internet schools are designed for isolated and remote areas with limited or no access to electricity. These communities normally have limited access to education and connectivity, both of which are important and key in this digital-age. The focus is to introduce inexpensive internet access to mostly underprivileged schools.

The telecommunication towers used by Netschools independently connect the schools and the community as a whole to the world. This will assist learners to have access to their curriculum as all the school modules will be loaded on the iPads or tablets being used.

Kumba’s educational spend targets the communities with the greatest needs for example, those with the weakest education facilities. During 2013, the company set an overall education and training budget of R34.8 million for the year of which just less than half was directed towards pre-primary and primary schools, to ensure these institutions have adequate facilities and are able attract skilled and committed educators.

Kumba believes that it needs to be a developmental partner for the communities in which it operates. It is a relationship that takes full account of the needs, priorities and aspirations of the people in its communities, an interaction that depends on regular meetings with stakeholders where the company takes on board suggestions and criticisms.

“Our aim is not only to strive to be an employer of choice, but also to minimise and mitigate any adverse social and environmental impacts of our mining activities by collaborating with our communities to create a positive legacy that will last well after our mines have closed. Ours is a process founded on consensus and honest, transparent interactions that intentionally focus on community upliftment,” concludes Mfolo.

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