Submitted by: Penny Watson

When Penny Watson began 1000 Hills Tuition 16 years ago, she had no idea of the journey she was about to embark on and where it would lead her.  There were times when she wanted to give up and there were times when she was totally amazed at the miraculous changes in students whose parents had arrived in her classroom in tears a few short months before.

There were times when her school felt more like a reformatory than a school, as more and more seemingly hopeless cases entered through her doors.  Looking back now with great pride, she can see how the majority of these young people have emerged from that dark tunnel and are successful, thriving young people, with homes, jobs, and families.

Since first meeting with two concerned members of the community, Trevor and Lynne, a year and a half ago, Penny’s vision for the school has changed completely.  It changed largely because of the three students Lynne and Trevor brought to her: Eric, Andile, and Vuyo.  They were identified as promising students among a group of young people who had attended the Waterfall Methodist Church’s ‘Sunday School’ faithfully.

Due to the words ‘Sunday School’, Penny expected to see three young children, but instead she was presented with three amazingly mature and responsible young adults.

After years of struggling with so many students who acted as if they were doing her a favour by doing their schoolwork, Penny was suddenly presented with a very different option – students who listened to her the first time she taught them how to do something, and who never made the same mistake again because they cared and they wanted to get things right.

In the photo from left to right: Andile, Eric and Vuyo

They so appreciated this opportunity that had been given to them and did everything that Penny asked them to do to the best of their abilities.  Despite their extreme poverty and the hardships of their lives, they never gave up and always persevered.  These young men inspired Penny to be the best teacher that she could be for them.

2019 brought three new students into the school; Aphiwe, Amahle, and Asa: the three A’s!  These three were of the same calibre – quiet, hard-working, and always willing to give of their best.

There is also much fun, laughter, and creativity in the classroom – it is not all quiet, serious studying!  The walls are covered with the students’ colourful artwork and the school’s loving dogs lounge and play around the students.

In the photo from left to right: Aphiwe, Asa, and Amahle

These are a few of the comments of the school’s students about their school, from youngest to oldest.

Reece (10): “Penny helps me properly unlike at my other school.  My favourite part of school is the dogs.”

Luke (12): “This school is amazing.  Everyone is nice and the dogs are fun to play with.  I used to hate doing schoolwork but ever since I came here, I don’t.”

Aphiwe (13): “I like this school because it encourages me and motivates me in my education.”

Amahle (13): “Meeting my new teacher was scary, but soon I found out she is so kind and a lovely lady.  It was my first time meeting a nice teacher.  When she teaches you, she makes sure you understand everything.  She isn’t like my other teachers.  She is different and I like her school which is a nice school.  Joining this school was when my life changed in a moment.  I am proud of being in this school.”

“I like this school because it gives me the knowledge that I deserve.  What I like the most is my teacher.  She gives me the knowledge that other teachers don’t have.”

Asa (16): “I like this school because it really helps me as a slow learner and when I am here at school, I can see the difference in my schoolwork, and I can also see that one day my dreams will come true.”

Nico (18): “I like this school because it is English, and the class makes me social.  We are a family!”

Andile (19): “ I really enjoy being at 1000 Hills Tuition because our teacher, Penny Watson, is very good and patient about teaching us.  I don’t even want to think about leaving school and I can’t imagine what will happen if we lose our school because it is the best for all of us.”

Eric (21): “I like my school because it is more respectful and encouraging about doing schoolwork in a nice understanding way.  I like my school because my teacher is the most wonderful teacher I ever had, and she knows how to teach well.”

Vuyo (27): “I like this school because the teacher is so helpful to all the children.  For me, I thought doing two grades at once (Grade 10 and 11) would be too difficult, but Penny made learning fun and easy.”

Three of Penny’s students left at the end of 2019 – one was in Grade 12 and the other two had moved to Cape Town. She would like to fill their spaces with three more sponsored students from Molweni.  Suitable students have already been identified by Lynne from among her ‘Sunday school’ students.

Unfortunately it will not be possible for Penny to help more students unless more kind, generous individuals such as Trevor or businesses are willing to step forward and assist them.  She is seeking 100% sponsorship for three new students, plus there are three girls’ whose parents are no longer able to pay their school fees and curriculum fees, so she is seeking further funding to assist them in 2020.

Aphiwe (14) has just completed Grade 7.   She is a slow learner but very hard working and made amazing progress in 2019.  Over the year, she developed a love for reading and read 7 books.  When Penny showed her mother another students’ journal, she didn’t think Aphiwe would ever be able to write a full page in English, but here it is – she did it!  Her family background is her father is in prison and her mother is barely able to provide for her family by cooking food and selling it at the taxi rank.  She requires 100% funding this year.

“I thought doing two grades at once (Grade 10 and 11) would be too difficult, but Penny made learning fun and easy.”

Amahle Dladla (13) has just completed Grade 8.  She is a gifted learner and has developed a passion for reading during her first year at the school, reading 8 books in total.  Her mother is a domestic worker but has only secured employment for one day a week and her father is absent.  Her grandmother has been assisting with the fees but can no longer do so as her youngest child has been accepted for DUT but she needs to pay the fees.  She requires 100% funding for 2020.

Asanda Mthembu (16) has just completed Grade 10.  She struggles with learning but has worked extremely hard throughout 2019.  She has a talent for Art and for writing.  Penny looks forward to reading her journal entries every day as they are so entertaining.  Her father has been very unreliable in paying her fees and has not yet paid her outstanding tuition fees and curriculum fees for 2019.  For her to continue her education, she will require 100% funding for 2020.

All these students come from very poor families and will require 100% funding.  They faithfully attend Waterfall Methodist Church and have been identified as the three most needy and promising students.

An update to our story

During the holidays, Amahle’s granny came to see Penny to tell her that she had a problem and could no longer afford her school fees.  Penny confidently reassured her that she would find Amahle a sponsor and she was to come back to school in the new year.

When school reopened in January, Penny was very concerned because two of the girls, Aphiwe and Asa, didn’t appear.  She contacted their parents and they came to see Penny, both very embarrassed because they could no longer afford the fees.  An agreement was made to reduce the fees by 50% and the two girls came back to school.

Yet again, Penny confidently promised that she would find them sponsors.  Since then, the weeks have been flying by and she has pursued every possible avenue to find sponsors for her students, without success.  The three girls are not yet registered for their current academic year and she is struggling to cope financially with insufficient money coming in.

Two more girls have joined the class, so now Penny has eight students.  Here is Xoliswa’s comment:
Xoliswa (18) is repeating Grade 12: “Who wouldn’t love this school, 1000 Hills Tuition?  The energy is always at its highest level.  This school is able to give me a second chance at education.  When I was at my lowest, it made me feel like an athlete.  I’m running this race again but with a proper vision.  I am able to make my dream of going to my favourite institution (University of Cape Town).  It is because of this school that I can actually see myself in a courtroom fighting for justice for the victims.  It is because of this school that I will be the best lawyer in South Africa.”

Photo from left to right: Xoliswa, Grade 12 and Tanika (10), Grade 4

Before they came to  1000 Hills, all these students had no hope and no future.  They have embraced this  opportunity with such enthusiasm, dedication, and diligence.

This has inspired Penny with a new vision for her school and her life and how she would like to spend the rest of her days.  This is her way of making a difference in changing the future for as many students as possible in this beautiful country of ours.  In order to help these students and extend this opportunity to reach more students in the same desperate situation, Penny will need her fellow Stayers to come alongside her.

Edited By: Maggie Wolfe Miller

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