The South African Embassy in London is a grand old building. Situated at the edge of Trafalgar Square, it is a labyrinth of cool marble corridors, dark wood furnishing and glass security doors. It is a beautiful venue that early last week played host to a very special exhibition.
From images of Nelson Mandela, to African sunsets and fruit trees galore, the walls are adorned with colourful collages created by schoolchildren from across the UK as part of the 2014 Help a South African School competition, which is run in partnership with South African fruit farmers.
The competition, open to years 5 and 6, encouraged UK students to find out about the lives of children in South Africa, while lending their support to South African schools in the process.
Entrants were asked to complete a collage based around the title “South Africa; making a difference with fruit” and to donate unwanted books to be shipped to underprivileged schools on farms and in other rural locations in South Africa. As only 20% of South African schools have libraries, teachers in the country are in desperate need of resources to combat illiteracy.
Jacques du Preez, product manager of HORTGRO (the organisation that represents fruit farmers in South Africa), said: “This is the third year that we’ve run the Help a South African School competition with the aim of encouraging schoolchildren in the UK to learn about South African fruit and how growing it has helped develop South Africa and support families, particularly in the past two decades.
“The children who have entered have put an impressive amount of work into their collages and shown they really have understood the importance of fruit farming to South Africa. This year, we have also received the most donations of English language books since we began. During the summer, these will be shipped to schools in rural farming areas of the country, where they are always well used.
“The competition is part of an ongoing project to raise awareness of different kinds of fruits from South Africa, and the difference eating them here in the UK can make to the everyday lives of people in South Africa.”
The winners of the collage competition will receive cash prizes towards school resources and are to be announced next week.
To find out more about future competitions, visit the Help a South African School website.