Living in a world where every child has access to a good education has been Hendrik Spies’ dream for South Africa from a young age. At some stage he thought it would always be just that – a dream – until 2018, when he met Elize Weyers and her husband Malcolm, a former school principal, with a passion for education
Hendrik mentioned to Elize that it had always been his dream to start a school and that he had even considered at some stage becoming a teacher. Before they knew it, they were making plans to build a school in Malmesbury, leaving a legacy for generations to come. The initiative received amazing support from the community and local schools.
‘We started researching the building of schools and the costs involved and came across a company that imports materials to build classrooms. A few million rands later we had ourselves a deal. The plan was to put up five classrooms and create enough space for the children to play, with solar panels on the roof and water tanks to be environmentally friendly. Elize, Malcolm and I agreed from the start that we would fund the school ourselves, not relying on loans from financial institutions,’ says Hendrik.
Today they are educating more than 150 children between the ages of 2 and 11, adding another grade every year. Next year the school will be complete to Grade 7. In 2020, they also took over the management of a neighbouring playschool’s premises, which opened its doors as Better Beginnings Edu-care in 2021. The Edu-care programme is already adding a lot of value. Hendrik’s next dream is to further the initiative by starting a trust fund to support scholars later in life, after secondary education, at a tertiary education level. He hopes that it will add value to the broader South African economy and the local households involved.
Hendrik says being part of the Better Beginnings journey has been the most rewarding thing he has ever done. ’It is my way of making sure the children in my community enjoy the best beginning!’
You mentioned that it has always been your dream to start a school. Please tell us more about your passion for education?
When I did my aptitude tests in high school, I was recommended to become a teacher. I love working with children and seeing the world through their eyes. I think that is where my passion for education started.
Do you have any motivational stories of how it has helped kids?
One of our Grade 3 learners was recently awarded first prize in a local competition hosted by the Malmesbury Chamber of Commerce. Children of all ages and from all the local primary and high schools in the area were allowed to enter. Our nine-year-old student won first prize for her answer to the following question, ‘What makes Malmesbury unique?’ She also won the selfie competition where learners of all ages had to send in pictures demonstrating how they support the local community. Words can hardly describe the pride I felt when our student was crowned the winner.
How did you manage to raise the money to build the school?
Elize, Malcolm and I funded the school from our personal savings. We started on an open plot and within a year we put up classrooms and a playground. We never intended to make a profit and decided from the start to use whatever profits we receive to expand the school.
Are you still actively involved with the school?
Yes, I am. I often donate necessities to the school and I keep in contact with the school management every week. Elize is the principal and the heart and soul of the school.
Education is crucial, but why do you believe more people need to invest in the education of kids in South Africa?
The kids of South Africa hold the key to our future. I truly believe the only way to eradicate poverty and unemployment in our country is through education.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
When we look at the socio-economic challenges we face in South Africa, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. I often find myself asking, ‘How can one person like me make a difference?’ But BBC has shown me that changing the world is often easier than we think. Sometimes we just need to be brave enough to tell other people about our dreams. You would be surprised how many people share your dream and are willing to contribute to make it a reality.