In poverty-plagued Hanover Park, a primary school has ensured that for at least one day a week its pupils didn’t go home to meagre meals after a day of fasting during Ramadaan.
From 5.30pm to 7.30pm every Friday during the Muslim holy month, Athwood Primary School’s hall hosted an iftaar (breaking of the fast) for the pupils. Both staff and pupils of all faiths were invited to enjoy a meal together.
Principal Kevan Petersen started the initiative during Ramadaan last year after noticing that many pupils and their families had little to break their fast with.
He said he had done the same thing at Heideveld Primary School when he had been the principal there.
The iftaars are supported by public donations.
Every Friday, the children and their families received a meal and a take-away box and each child received a party packet. Children who gathered at the school gate were also fed.
“We also got donations of food parcels for 30 of the most needy families, and we hope more will be coming in. The community has really embraced the idea so gladly because of the need, and I am so proud of the pupils for their good behaviour during the iftaar,” he said.
“One Friday one girl received her party packet, and she asked for her sister at home, and a lady almost cried because it shows that they think about others as well.”
He said the school hoped that by changing children’s attitudes it could “change the entire community one meal at a time”.
School caretaker John Jacobs prepared the hall every Friday for the iftaar.
“It’s a very good idea,” he said. “The mothers of the children really appreciate it and the community as well. The families started queueing outside on a Friday; they were very excited, and they saw all the food to eat.
“I helped to set up for them and I saw that the children were safe. My four children and I also ate with them,” he said.
Taahirah Esau, the coordinator of the project has been working in the community of Pinate Estate for many years. She said that through the iftaar programme the children were able to feel the spirit of Ramadaan.
“From the beginning of the year, the children have asked if we are having it again this year. We have a very small hall, so we can only accommodate so many people. The children from all over came to boeka here not only pupils from our school. We are hoping that other schools will adopt the idea as well. We would like to thank our main sponsor, Al Musaa-id, for their generosity,” she said.