Meet the Sparrow Choir

In November this year, the Sparrow Combined School Choir will embark on a tour of the United Kingdom. The tour will be a huge cultural and social experience for the learners. Many of them will have never traveled outside their hometowns and will have had no idea of the real meaning of an English winter. Meet one half of the choir members:

Kamo Lephallo

Kamo Lephallo

Age: 16

Born: Orlando West, Soweto

Voice type: Soprano

Q: Tell us about yourself

A: I’m kind and friendly with people. Basically, what you see is what you get.

Q: What are your hobbies?

A: In my spare time, I play computer games and chess. I really like playing brain games

Q: Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

A: I see myself as an actor or musician. If I go into the acting field, I would like to be an actor on Isidingo (popular South African telenovela). If I go into the music industry, I would rap.

Q: What does the Mandela spirit mean to you?

A: From what I have been told and read, he was a well-known, respected man that did a lot of good deeds for our country.

Q: If you could change the world, what would you do?

A: I would help the poor by providing disadvantaged children with free basic education and jobs for their parents.

Kelebogile Peele

kele peele

 Age: 18

Born: Molapo extension, Soweto.

Voice type: Soprano

Q: Tell us about yourself

A: I am quiet and shy in nature that is why I have a small circle of 4 friends. I usually speak when spoken to.

Q: What are your hobbies?

A: I cook and occasionally sing old school RNB music the likes of Mariah Carey and Tamia.

Q: Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

A: I see myself opening my own restaurant in Sandton (Johannesburg) because I am passionate about cooking.

Q: What does the Mandela spirit mean to you?

A: It means Ubuntu and working as one as well as equal rights for all citizens.

Q: If you could change the world, what would you do?

A: I would help street kids with shelters to accommodate them. I would also set up programmes to help them achieve their life goals

Noma Ngamlana

Nomathamsanqa Ngamlana

Age: 15

Grade: 9

Born: Mofolo, Soweto

Voice type: Alto

Q: Tell us about yourself

A: I am a shy person. I am short-tempered and I love my family.

Q: What are your hobbies?

A: I read books when I have nothing to do so far I have read High School Musical.

Q: Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

A: I see myself studying BA Tourism Management at the University of Johannesburg

Q: What does the Mandela spirit mean to you?

A: It means fighting for people’s rights even though it personally affects you.

Q: If you could change the world, what would you do?

A: I would build homes and hospitals for poor people.

Sanele Nkabinde

Sanele Nkabinde

Age: 14

Grade:  8

Born: Diepkloof, Soweto

Voice type:  Soprano

Q: Tell us about yourself

A: I love singing because it makes me happy. I do not like greedy people.

Q: What are your hobbies?

A: If I’m not singing, I am probably reading a book like Charlie and the chocolate factory, and Silver Book.

Q: Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

A: I see myself as an English or Isizulu teacher. If I choose to go into singing, I will sing gospel songs like Rebecca Malope and Hlengiwe Mhlaba.

Q: What does the Mandela spirit mean to you?

A: It means an act of heroism whereby a man went to prison for 27 years in the fight for equal rights.      

Q: If you could change the world, what would you do?

A: I would reduce crime in South Africa by deploying more police onto the streets.

Karabo Khupe

Kari Khupe

Age: 15

Grade: ASP 3

Home: Parktown, Johannesburg

Q: Tell us about yourself

A: I’m a kind person that loves joking around. I also play sports namely netball and hockey.

Q: What are your hobbies?

A: When I have nothing serious to do, I go to the gym or simply unwind at the mall with my friends.

Q: Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

A: I see myself as a successful hockey player for the South African national team.

Q: What does the Mandela spirit mean to you?

A: It means freedom, and equal rights and responsibilities for all.

Q: If you could change the world, what would you do?

A: I would reduce crime in South Africa by creating employment.

Tumelo Vilakazi

Tumelo Vilakzi

Age: 16

Grade:  ASP 1

Home:  Fourways, Johannesburg.

Q: Tell us about yourself

A: I like singing a lot. I do not like cats because I have asthma. I attend church on Sundays and I like travelling.

Q: What are your hobbies?

A: I chill with friends and teach them how to sing. I also sketch fashion designs because I want to be a fashion designer when I grow up.

Q: Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

A: I see myself working for a sewing company so that I can learn how to start my own fashion company, if not, I see myself singing on Idols South Africa or being a choir mistress like Mrs. Badesile Gaobepe (Choir Mistress).

Q: What does the Mandela spirit mean to you?

A: Simply means to help people that cannot help themselves and spread peace.

Q: If you could change the world, what would you do?

A: I would buy houses for poor people and I would reduce the price of bread, milk, toiletries and other essentials.

The tour will help expand links with Sparrow among a number of UK schools, some of whom have organised exchange tours of their own including Tudor Hall School for Girls and Westminster Under School. The aim is to expand knowledge of Sparrow to new audiences, as well as among existing supporters. Click here for the tour itinerary.

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Highlights from Learner Support Unit

The Learner Support Unit is comprised of therapists and other professionals whose goals are to assist Sparrow Schools learners with barriers to learning. Barriers to learning can be described as any factor (physical, cognitive or emotional) that stops a learner from reaching their full potential. The Learner Support Unit works in a collaborative way, with the various therapists working together with parents and educators to ensure that each learner is helped holistically.

The LSU has made some great strides through the years helping inspire action while changing lives . See below:

Sandile Mkhonza – Foundation School learner *


Mkhonza has been attending the Sparrow Foundation School since the start of 2014. Upon arriving at the school, it was apparent that Mkhonza struggled with communicating in class and relating to his peers. This was all despite the fact that in a non-verbal way he showed a warm and bubbly personality. A multidisciplinary approach, involving Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy and Play Therapy, was employed to help Mkhonza reach his full potential. Mkhonza has made excellent progress and interacts well with his educators and peers and is one of the most liked learners in his class. In additional to the social skills that he has gained, the play therapy that he has received has helped him with some emotional issues that he had in the past.

Sizwe Simelane – Combined School learner

Simelane started at the Combined School in 2012. Despite being a hardworking and diligent young man, he struggled academically. An assessment by the Educational Psychologist indicated some barriers to learning and as a result he was placed in the ASP program as it would better meet his academic needs. Additionally, Buhle received weekly therapy from the social worker at the Combined School to help with the adjustment and also to give Buhle guidance towards his future. By the end of 2014 Buhle had shown a great improvement in his school performance and even completed the ASP program. Owing to his hard working nature, the Combined School has given Buhle a scholarship to come back to the school to further his learning in Catering and assist in the school’s kitchen.

Mabaruti Makhetha –Foundation school parent

Didintle Makhethe. Grade 1F

“I would like to thank the Sparrow Foundation School. My daughter has been at Sparrow for four months now and we have seen a great change in her. When she came to the school she could hardly hold a pencil properly and writing was a challenge for her and she had already developed a negative attitude towards school. Didi has gained so much confidence she can write and trying to read as well. I wish we could have more schools and the type of dedicated Educators that we have.”

*Names have been changed.

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Melanie Malema driving change

“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have,” Magaret Mead. Since joining Sparrow Schools in 2002 and realising the huge divide in South Africa’s education system, New Business Development Manager at Sparrow Schools, Melanie Malema has made great strides bringing meaningful change to the lives of young persons.

Malema developed interest in the social space in the year 2000 when she was approached by a church in Bryanston, Johannesburg. She was invited to run and manage a home that was established for boys who were living on the streets. These boys faced various social issues such as drug abuse and did not attend school.  This is when she came across Sparrow Schools which was the perfect fit for such boys.

Her drive for uplifting and empowering young persons continued and led her to helping develop the Sparrow FET College in 2010. She embarked on an exploratory mission doing research and finally witnessing the registration of the college as a credible training provider that offers SETA accredited courses.

“The Sparrow FET College trains young people in short skills that have been jointly identified with industry. This model provides industry with a pipeline of young entry level candidates who wish to embark on a particular trade,” explains Malema. The identification of relevant companies is crucial to the training as this is where learners gain their practical work experience and ultimately leads to full time employment.

The partnership between the learner, The Sparrow FET College and industry has proven to be an effective model in producing qualified candidates in areas of short skills and successfully contributing towards the eradication of unemployment in the country.

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Grand Opening of RYCO South Africa

On 14 August 2015, hydraulics giant, RYCO opened its very first office and warehouse in South Africa. The launch in Midrand provided two of the Sparrow FET College students in the Fluid Power Hose Assembly programme with hands-on workplace interaction with industry experts. Furthermore, with networking in mind and being surrounded with industry leaders, our students got to speak to several guests concerning job openings, learnership and internship opportunities as well as basic knowledge sharing.

Ryco 3

Apart from the scrumptious light meals made by two of the Sparrow FET College Assistant Chef students, another spectacle was a piece of machinery called RYCO APS which has been recently imported from Australia. The machine is 4 meters in length and 40 meters in height. It stores all the equipment including couplings, fitters, hoses, and very user friendly. As described by the RYCO personnel, “it is a warehouse on its own” which ideally reduces human error in the sense that a client will be handed the correct item. It is also time-efficient, user-friendly and saves space.

The APS Machine
The APS Machine

In addition, the students were accompanied by the FET’s New Business Manager, Melanie Malema and job coaches Kholofelo Mokwele and Mary Webber to inform the special guests more about our Fluid Power Hose Assembly skills programme.

The Sparrow FET College continues to assist students by not only providing quality education but also a gateway to the workplace which asserts our statement of continuing to inspire action and changing lives.

Words by Motlhabane Modupe.

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Michelle Pellaton beating the odds

Occasionally, we come across adversities as we navigate through life. Sometimes these obstacles that life throws at us seem insurmountable. For many of us, the easiest thing to do when faced with hardship is to retreat. Then there are those who are brave in enough to soldier on kicking down all the barriers. One such phenomenal woman is grade 1 special needs teacher at the Sparrow Foundation School, Michelle Pellaton.
 Foundation 1

We live in a society where a lot of women are raised to aspire to marriage and be mothers. For a lot of women, being a mother forms a large part of their self-image. When life happens however, and it does not turn out as we wanted it to, the consequences can be crippling. When a woman cannot bear children, it tremendously affects her identity, but the pain can extend far beyond her to impact personal relationships,” says Lindsay Getz, a Freelance writer based in the United States of America.

Foundation 4

A New York based Psychotherapist, Marni Rosner, explains, “Women often begin to imagine themselves as mothers long before actually trying to have children, and this is certainly influenced by implicit cultural and societal messages that idealize motherhood. When this imagined self of a mother, however tentative, is withdrawn, it may result in feeling a loss of control, threaten her imagined future, cause her to doubt her womanhood, and feel like an assault on her ability to self-actualize.”

When Pellaton found out she could not have children, Instead of succumbing to depression and anger, her passion for children is what got her through. “I asked myself, ‘who are we to complain about our lives when there’s so much we can do for these children?’. There’s no reason why we should be allowing them to grow up thinking that that the world is cruel,” says Pellaton. She further adds, “Honestly, when I was going through Chemotherapy, these are the people that really got me through (Her learners),” Pellaton says.

Foundation 3

Her passion for dealing with children with special needs was partly inspired by her brother who is dyslexic. “I love autistics, I have so much love in me and I choose to give it to my children,” she says as her face lights up. From as early as 19 years old, she helped run a nursery school for five years in Sandton, Johannesburg. She has been and is still involved with various charity organisations including Nkosi’s Haven. Her classroom consists of children facing various learning barriers including autism, abuse and some are from places of safety.

As we all celebrate womanhood and pay tribute to the indomitable spirit of women across the country, Pellaton has some grievances. “For me women’s month means nothing because women still don’t get enough respect. I feel that it should be an ongoing thing, not just in August. There should be more respect and more understanding,” Pellaton explains.

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No money is no excuse

Sparrow Schools Educational Trust takes pride in being able to continually provide effective solutions to resolving South Africa’s education crisis, helping eradicate poverty and unemployment. Although the country still faces serious challenges, great strides have been made to ensure that there is equal opportunity for all. However, South Africa faces another hurdle in its pursuit for equality for all, Gender Discrimination.

edit 1

According to statistics published by the South African Revenue Service, “women earn nearly a third less than men on average in South Africa.” Women are faced with the challenge of having to do twice the work to prove their worthiness. The patriarchal status quo continues to be the hindering factor in many South African women’s lives.

However, just as South Africans fought to put an end to an unjust Apartheid system, the fight against gender discrimination is very much alive. Some young women are choosing to break down gender stereotypes and refuse to be victims. Emily Phepheng, is just one of many young women who have had to overcome great hurdles.


The young woman from Limpopo fell victim to a tale old as time. Boy meets girl, girl likes boy, boy and girl fall in love, girl falls pregnant and the father avoids responsibility. Phepheng fell pregnant at 20 years and the father left her to fend for herself. “I remember how difficult it was, I was young and I did not know how I was going to handle it,” Phepheng says.

Instead of taking the easy road and wallowing in despair, Phepheng enrolled at the Sparrow FET College for a Fluid Power Hose Assembly Skills Program. Despite the hydraulics industry being male dominated, Phepheng is on a mission to break down the stereotype. Her persistence and dedication earned her the title as class captain from a class dominated by males.

edit 4

Now 27 years old and a single mother of 2, she is now a permanent employee at hydraulics company, Alfagomma. She remains unfazed and continues to conquer the gender stereotypes. Her motivation comes from wanting to inspire her peers, moving them to take a stand and conquer their fears. “Do not focus on not having money, I went to Sparrow and got more information and here I am now,” Phepheng stresses.

The next milestone in Phepheng’s books is to get into logistics and take her career a step further. Speaking on how her life has changed since joining Sparrow, she explains, “I can now focus on more important things, I can focus on my kids and take care of them. I am a much more responsible mother.”

In respect of women’s month, we will continue to profile women whose lives have been changed. We will also be profiling the women playing crucial roles in ensuring that Sparrow Schools Educational trust continues to inspire action and change lives.

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Muscular Dystrophy Foundation donates wheelchair

On 28 July 2015, The Muscular Dystophy Research Foundation (MDRF) donated an electric wheelchair to a Sparrow Combined School learner, Philile Shweni. Shweni was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy at an early age and has had to depend on a wheelchair to get around. According to Wikipedia, Muscular Dystrophy is a condition that causes one’s muscles gradually to weaken over time. In South Africa, the condition affects 1:1 200 people.

The MDRF visited the Sparrow Combined School in Sophia Town to do the official hand over. “We are very fortunate as human beings, some of us are very fortunate to be able to use our hands and arms. One of our learners, Philile, who also happens to be one of our best learners, finds it difficult to do most tasks because of his condition,” said the Combined School Principal, Mark Cloete. He further adds, “On behalf of Sparrow, we would like to thank the MDRF for this kind gesture.”


The MDRF was represented by General Manager, Pieter Joubert,who is also affected by MD. He was accompanied by Occupational Therapist, Erica Gerthsen and Fundraiser, Braam Roux. “There are 1200 people in South Africa affected by this condition. We at MDRF understand what Philile and others are going through and that is why we go out of our way to land a helping hand. We understand that not everyone can afford these wheelchairs as they are very expensive,” Joubert explains.


Philile’s sister, Phumla Shweni, was also there to witness the handover and was evidently overwhelmed with joy; you could sense the relief in her voice as she spoke. “I’m so grateful and happy for him, it has been very difficult for us at home because he could not do most things on his own. The wheelchair is definitely going to help us and him,” Phumla said.

According to WEB MD, there is still no cure for any form of Muscular Distrophy, but medications and therapy can slow the course of the disease. There are currently research projects that are working on a cure for the disease.  The Department of Health has dedicated the month of September to raising awareness around the disease. Wear a lime green ribbon to show your support.

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Sparrow Schools enjoys Madiba’s spirit

Every July 18, the world comes together to celebrate the late icon, Nelson Mandela’s birthday by committing 67 Minutes to doing good deeds. Our Foundation School in Melville and our High Schools in Sophiatown welcomed the support of Hollard Insurance, Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) and Virgin Active Milpark for their 67 Minutes Mandela Day helps.

Hollard team hard at work
Hollard team hard at work

The Day kicked off at the Foundation School with an opening statement by the TNPA, organising committee member, Sizwe Msila. “Today will evoke a sense of consciousness in all of us,” Msila said before handing the floor to TNPA’s Acting CEO Nico Walters. “As a corporate, part of our role is to give back to the community. It is truly a privilege for Transnet to be a part of something like this. We would like to thank the school for giving us this opportunity. Let us do our work today, in Madiba’s spirit,” Walters said.


The Foundation School Principal, Vanessa Brodrick, also took to the podium to welcome the guests. “These kinds of initiatives and helping hands allow us to enhance our strategies and allow for our continual development in challenging our learners to make a success of their lives. We thank you for the growing interest in our school as a whole and your incredible friendship. In South Africa we embrace the spirit of UBUNTU and today we extend that courtesy to you,” Brodrick said as she closed the opening.


TNPA contributed R40 000 towards refurbishing our Foundation School Facilities. The parastatal brought a team of 50 and they were split into four different groups to carry out their different projects. The teams spent the day painting toilets, installing new taps and a ceiling at the Foundation Schools’ hall.


Meanwhile Hollard and Virgin Active were hard at work cleaning up at the Combined School. Both teams were happy to get their hands dirty as they cleaned up the skip waste area as well as the compost and gardening area. Their commitment to the Madiba spirit was evident as they strived to meet the needs of the organization in keeping the grounds beautiful and litter free.

All three companies did a stellar job with a wonderful attitude of wanting to give back and General Manager, Jackie Gallagher, had nothing but good things to say. “Thank you for giving of yourselves in such a wonderful way today. I really hope that you can find the time to come back and see the impact that that you have made in our children’s lives,” Gallagher said.

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Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund turns 20

On 10 July 2015, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund (NMCF) hosted their annual Children’s Celebration at their foundation in Johannesburg. The celebration commemorated the great statesman’s life and legacy by celebrating the very beings he devoted his life to protecting.  The theme was “there is a hero in every child”, with the aim of recognising every Childs ‘uniqueness and talent.


The event brought children from different primary schools across Gauteng together to celebrate the funds’ 20 years anniversary. Founded in 1995, the NMFC is the brainchild of the late Dr Nelson Mandela which was inspired by his love for children and his desire to end their suffering.

The ceremony kicked off with breakfast at 9:00am and it was all fun and games thereafter.  The children had the opportunity to enjoy themselves indulging in various activities. The young heroes were awarded the platform to showcase their skills through song and dance. Former Sparrow Foundation School learner, Ashley Magutshwa, was among the performers of the day and gave a stellar ballet performance, much to the audience’s delight.


The day was also an opportunity for various non-governmental organisations including Sparrow Schools to carry out exhibitions for their different causes. Among the public figures in attendance were musicians Simphiwe Dana, Kabomo, Muzarts’Rorisang Thandekiso and Bafana Bafana Coach Shakes Mashaba.

Simphiwe Dana and Shakes Mashaba. Souce: Simphiwe's Twitter
Simphiwe Dana and Shakes Mashaba. Source: Simphiwe’s Twitter

After show time, everybody was invited to lunch before indulging in two large birthday cakes enough to feed the nation. The ceremony concluded at 2:00pm and all thanks goes to all the sponsors including Pick’n Pay, Oral B, and emergency medical service ER24, who made it all possible.

Muzarts’ lead singer Rorisang Thandekiso

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Spend your 67 minutes with Sparrow Schools

Spend your 67 minutes for Madiba with Sparrow Schools and you can help inspire action and change lives. Be the change that you want to see and choose a project to adopt. Help improve facilities with a coat of paint or better yet, convert your minutes to Madibas.

See projects you or your organisation can adopt below.

 The Foundation School School

Painting and face lift of the entrance to our school which includes:

  • Ceiling @ R 2 000.67
  • Electrical repairs @ R 1 000.00
  • Outside clean up @ R 2 000.67
  • Hall doors to be replaced @ R 3 000.00
  • Installation of display boards in the Hall @ R 2 000.67
  • Paving to the entrance of the school @ R 67 000.00
  • Refurbish doors and handrails @ R 670.00
  • Painting in Classrooms @ R 3110
  • Picket Fence to be painted @ R 4 670.00
  • Quad area garden needs to be revamped @ R 2000.00
  • Door painting x8 doors @ R 6700.00
  • Gardening – R 670.00 per group x 4 groups, R 2680.00
  • Installation of a Flags and Flagpoles at our School x2 @ R 6700 each

The Combined School

Revamping of the Teachers meeting Room & Computer room:

  • Painting of the walls in both rooms
  • New Blinds

All for: R 914.00

  • Revamping the HOD’s offices x2
  • Painting of the walls in both rooms
  • Office Chairs x4

All for: R 6 700.00

The FET College

Window Sills repainting

  • All window seals to be repainted =R 6700
  • Boys and girls toilet to be revamped
  • Both toilets to be repainted
  • X4 Mirrors to be installed

All for: R 6 700

For more information contact Precious Mbele on 011 482 1015 or email:

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