|Steve’s Farewell Photo Opp Boost for Township Youngsters
When Steve Jones, chief executive of Wigan Council, retires tomorrow after 15 years in the top job, like most people he’ll have the usual leaving do. And there will be the usual presents from colleagues.
But, unlike other town hall farewells, Steve is planning a photo opportunity with a difference for a cause that’s long been dear to his heart.
On the day of his retirement (Thursday 19th May) he has asked colleagues down to Robin Park sports centre for a giant ‘team’ photo in the arena stand. Copies of the picture will then be offered for sale in aid of the children of Sithobelumthetho senior primary school, in one of the poorest parts of South Africa.
Steve first came across the school in 1994 when he was one of a group of UK chief executives asked to help organise the first free South African elections. It lies in Madadeni township, KwaZulu Natal — a part of the country badly hit by the decline in the country’s coal and steel industry.
With a 65:1 pupil teacher ratio, the school was desperate to increase the number of classrooms and other facilities. And Steve was determined to help them.
Since 2000 Steve has been helping them to pay for the £76,000 project with a variety of fundraising ideas. Friends, colleagues and local companies have all contributed, and already new toilets and a small kitchen have been built.
Money has also gone towards new computer equipment, and the school has even twinned with Wigan’s own Kingsdown High School, with pupils regularly exchanging emails.
“I didn’t want to leave with just a big party. It seemed a like a good opportunity to say good bye to all the people I’ve worked with over the years, provide a tangible memento of the team spirit that has seen the council do such a fantastic job, and raise money for a wonderful cause.”
“For the people of Madadeni township, education is not free. It is precious, and parents and children go without many other things to attend school. Our next project is to try and get a video conferencing link with Kingsdown School. This would then allow each school to provide and take lessons from the other.”
Already £300 has been pledged from people who can’t turn but want to contribute. And the hope is that hundreds more colleagues will order photos on the day.
“Each time we visit the school, the difference the money raised by friends and colleagues has made is very apparent. Such a little helps these young people such a lot.”