The best beginning
Imagine living in a world where every child has access to a good education. This has been my dream for South Africa from a young age. At some stage I thought it would always be just that – a dream. And then I met Elize.
In the summer of 2016, I took over my father’s financial advisory practice in Malmesbury, the town where I grew up. One of my first meetings was with an old client of my father’s, Elize, and her partner, Malcolm. We had to discuss a routine review of their financial plans. Little did I know that the meeting would turn out to be anything but routine. Elize and I clicked instantly. She was a retired principal from Namibia who had successfully run a school there for many years. Her passion for education was inspiring. I mentioned to Elize that it had always been my dream to start a school and that I had even considered at some stage to become a teacher.
More than a year passed before I heard from Elize again. She called me to set up an appointment which I assumed was to review her financial position again, so I took my review folder and set off to Elize’s house. Five minutes into our meeting I realised that Elize was not interested in discussing her finances. Instead she started telling me how she only needed some rocks under a tree to create a school! She asked me if I was serious the year before when I told her about my dream to start a school, to which I instantly replied ‘yes!’. And that is how we started our school, Better Beginnings College.
Elize and I realised early on that in order to start a school we needed land to build it on. We made contact with our local municipality to discuss our idea. Not expecting much, we were pleasantly surprised to be met by the municipal manager himself. We were even more surprised when the manager took out a big map as big as the boardroom table we were sitting at. He pointed to the map and asked his personnel to identify sites where we could build our school. We could not believe our luck!
It took about three months to secure a site for the school. We desperately wanted the school to open its doors in January 2018, but by the time we had secured the land, we were already nearing the end of 2017. 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.
We were concerned about the timing, but the builders assured us that they would work straight through the December holiday to have the school ready by the next school year. And so Better Beginnings College opened its doors in January 2018 to 13 learners. Word quickly spread that our school was offering first-class education at affordable prices and by 2019 we had so many students that we had to build two extra classrooms!
Today, we are educating more than 100 children between the ages of 6 and 11, adding another grade every year to become a proper primary school. We also took over the management of a neighbouring playschool this year, which will open its doors as Better Beginnings Educare in January 2021. I also plan to set up a trust to fund the secondary and tertiary education of our best students.
Being part of the Better Beginnings journey has been the most rewarding thing I have ever done. It is my way of making sure the children in my community enjoy the best beginning!