#wineforgood: Kickstarting a quality education at the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley Pre-School

Tuesday, 23 April, 2019
Hemel-en-Aarde Valley Pre-School
In 1996 Anthony Hamilton Russell built a daycare for the farm employees' children. This building has since become a safe haven for 47 children from the nearby communities, providing them with a solid foundation to their education.

The Hemel-en-Aarde Valley Pre-School, located on the Hamilton Russell Vineyards property is not your average farm school. The picturesque building boasts neat classrooms full of educational equipment, qualified and caring teachers and an industrial kitchen providing nutritious meals. 

Since upgrading the school to an Early Childhood Development Centre in 2013, the school has expanded from 20 learners to 47, with a capacity for 50. It has seen 4 classrooms, three bathrooms, an office and an industrial kitchen added. Though starting out as just a daycare, Anthony Hamilton Russell's vision to provide a safe learning environment has simply grown into something with a far greater impact than originally planned. Today Hamilton Russell's foreman, Colin Jonkers' daughter and stable man, John Nyanbunze's son attend the school that is still beautifully maintained by the estate.

With a yearly auction at the Pinot Noir Festival in aid of the school and contributions from various other local wineries, taking care of the school, its learners and teachers has become a joint effort of the Hemel-en-Aarde wineries. The Hamilton Russells, however, remain the main financial support, taking care of the school's maintenance, keeping the lights on and water in the taps. Ashbourne, sister farm to Hamilton Russell Vineyards, continues support through a financial contribution to the school with every bottle of Ashbourne Sauvignon Blanc / Chardonnay sold.

Children who receive a quality-level of early childhood development have a much better chance of becoming constructive members of society. The years that these Hemel-en-Aarde kids spend talking, drawing, counting and playing in this classroom, will have an impact that lasts long beyond the here and now. Not only does the school provide a safe place for the children while their parents are at work, they are also learning valuable skills.

Four teachers are led by Talita Engelbrecht who got involved in the running of the school four years ago. All four teachers came from the local Hermanus community and trained with Klein Karoo with teacher Elzinda recently completing her Diploma. Mendine and Ashlin are hot on her heels and will complete their diplomas soon and Emmie is currently studying toward her Level 5 qualification. Change is not limited to the children's lives as completing their teaching qualifications has also changed the education level of these teachers and improved their confidence. 

Full-time chef, Zelda, cooks up a storm every day, following a nutrition programme monitored by Ukwanda, the Division of Human Nutrition from the University of Stellenbosch. She serves her little squadron hearty portions of meat and vegetables and often they come for a second round soon after the first portion. In return, the school has provided Zelda with a steady income and secure housing.

The dream, at Hemel-en-Aarde Valley Pre-School, is to make their small campus more green and self-sufficient. There are further plans down the line for a food tunnel, to grow the school’s own vegetables, as well as a chicken coop. With more funding from the community, they are hoping to take on a previously-unemployed person, to create a vegetable garden in which the children can develop their own green thumbs. Meanwhile, within the school’s walls, they plan to funnel any further investment towards new software for their Leapfrog computers. One can only imagine the well-rounded characters this institution is going to develop in future. We hope and trust that all the help this school needs will come their way!



There are plenty of good news stories about upliftment and transformation in the South African Wine Industry. This #wineforgood website, launched by wine.co.za in June 2016, hosts all the positive stories from the winelands, of which there are plenty. wine.co.za has made April a focus for #wineforgood stories, being Freedom Month, as South Africa celebrates 25 years of democracy.
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