Keith Fossey is a member of Nene Valley Rotary Club, Northampton. He is also a trustee of Swaziland Schools Projects which in only 20 years has ticked off a formidable number of projects in the east African country now officially called eSwatini.
Keith explained that the country is the size of Wales and has a population of 1.2 million. Twenty-seven per cent of its population are living with HIV/Aids and it has 70,000 orphans. The country gained its independence from Britain in 1968.
Primary education is free and is taught in siSwati. But after two years, schooling is done in English. Working with about a dozen schools in a 30-mile long corridor near the capital of Mbabane, the British-registered charity has achieved a huge amount.
Keith showed Novus members a couple of videos and many photos. Among them were pictures of a village which had been home to families which provided labour for an asbestos mine. When the health hazards became known, and the value of asbestos dropped, the village was left deserted.
A Canadian charity bought the village and each house is now home to a Swazi woman caring for six orphans. They are educated thanks to Swaziland Schools Projects.
Keith showed lots of photos of happy schoolchildren. All are in uniform. Few are in shoes. Keith explained that because progression to the next academic year requires passing an exam, some classmates will be several years older than their pals.
The annual fees alone for secondary school pupils are £400 and this year the charity has supported 50 orphans.
But the charity has done much, much more. They have built classrooms, toilets and homes for teachers, provided furniture and education materials and shoes.
The charity also helps teachers improve their English and train teenagers to become mechanics, carpenters, welders and the like. In return, the skilled school-leavers help the charity work on subsequent projects.
All of this is achieved by eight UK-based trustees and six volunteers in eSwatini. No-one takes a salary. Fundraising is largely through holding events in the UK. Recently the charity was given a £10,000 grant.
Annual income is normally in the range of £30-£50,000.
You can read more about the charity and make a donation by visting its website and its Facebook page
After Keith left the meeting, members agreed that his talk had been exceptional, because it was fact-full but entertaining. He had started by saying that he had little siSwati but knows that people are named quite literally. One woman with many children gave the last one the Siswati name meaning “This is definitely the last”!
Keith (pictured here) said his siSwati name means “Shiny Top”!
Last edited: 22:30 on Thursday, 21.01.2021