Between my shadow and my soul

Golden Smile aka Things I Heart 3




SANZAF has earned the reputation of being an organisation committed to a developmental approach when servicing the poor and needy. This is evident even from our relief work where we deal with the immediate and urgent needs while at the same time addressing issues of longer-term stability and security, such as access to education and income generation.

Until recently, SANZAF has serviced primarily families (and sometimes individuals) with little hope of changing or influencing what happens within their communities. This is understandable given the limitations of Zakah (vis-a-vis the channels of distribution) and our own capacity and availability of resources.

Although it is sometimes hard to admit to it, SANZAF was caught up in the “preservation” mode that the broader Muslim community thought was the best way to protect the Ummah’s identity, especially given our countries racial past. Muslims, like the rest of South African citizens, were isolated from the international community and were thus forced to think and often acted to protect Islam by preserving what we had, rather than extending and growing beyond our racial and ethnic identities.

Also, Muslims were by and large left to themselves (or tolerated) in pre-democratic South Africa, partly due to the efforts of a minority of vocal activists and partly due to non-alignment with the Apartheid government. However, since we were a minority not much was said or expected of us even though as a minority we were better off than most.

The events of 11 September 2001 (and other incidents preceding it) forced Muslims to think differently. Now we were seen to be part of an international community and what others did in the name of Islam (often in far-away places) had a direct effect of how others saw and thought of us locally. We had to reconsider our “preservation” methodology and needed to play a more constructive role in forging a better understanding and image of Islam. We did this for our own benefits and in what we understood would be most helpful in projecting our Islamic identity.

We have to adopt a “service” approach to protecting our identity and this could only be done by adopting the Prophetic methodology of service to humanity.

SANZAF is hoping to lead the way in this regard. Already we have rolled-out several small but innovative projects that have had a positive effect in our field of work. We believe that now is the time to expand and forge ahead with a new vision of service to humanity.

This brief proposal will outline a model for how the South African Muslim community should safeguard their identity and help accelerate the Islamic cause by being at the forefront of the development and service of poorer communities – in service to humanity.

“It is a well established fact that a child who has access to quality schooling has a better chance in life. A child who knows how to read, write and do basic arithmetic has a solid foundation for continued learning throughout life. Education is (also) critically important to children’s social integration and psychosocial well being. School attendance helps children affected by trauma to regain a sense of normalcy and to recover from the psychosocial impacts of their experiences and disrupted lives.”

Mrs. Zulekha Adam : activist, former educator and

former Council Manager (Johannesburg Region 11)


As well as benefiting individuals, education benefits whole nations. It is a major instrument for social and economic development. A person with even a basic level of education has a better opportunity of contributing to the reduction of poverty then one who is uneducated. It increases the productivity of labour, improves health and enables people to participate fully in the economy and the development of societies.

More than at any other time in world history, a child and a nation that are not educated are disadvantaged in terms of income, health and opportunity.

This fact has been acknowledged by no less than three international agencies purporting to represent the world’s nations. Theses agencies have adopted several resolutions in the hope of improving people’s quality of life. These include:

ArArticle 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (10 December 1948)1

-->Article 28 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Children (12 December 1989)2

ArArticle 9 of the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (5 August 1990)3

Regrettably, not all signatories/member countries have lived up to or implemented these resolutions. Admittedly some have been constraint by resources, while many have had other competing social issues as a priority. Interestingly, nations that have pursued a developmental and educational agenda are the world’s leaders, if not politically or economically, then technologically. Even the world’s largest democracy, India, with all its poverty is still respected and regarded as a world leader simply because it has dramatically increased its literacy rates from 12.2% to 73.3% since independence4. Similar comparisons of poverty levels (although not conclusive) show that in fact poverty levels have decreased noticeably since independence5.

Having ourselves recognised the importance and value of education, SANZAF has been encouraged to support education related activities and has been doing this since our inception in 1974. Archive records show that as early as 1976, SANZAF was offering bursaries albeit on a smaller scale relative to the R5m invested in educating tertiary students in 2008. Also, since democratisation, SANZAF has spent large amounts of resources, providing stationery and uniforms and even subsidising school fees for needy families.

Again, these have been done on a needs basis, often not linked to other issues such as monitoring the quality of teaching or providing tuition or extra-mural services such as youth training, etc.

A New Paradigm

In 2004 SANZAF embarked on its first ever community intervention programme. This initiative was different for several reasons:

One, we wanted our work to have a positive effect on the majority of the community members – not just a few families.

Two, the community was almost entirely non-Muslim, although they lived near other communities with a large Muslim population.

Third, although we had good intentions we were still regarded as outsiders and had to build trust and understanding between ourselves – the community was let down before both by government and by well meaning NGO’s.

Forth, we had to find alternative resources - Zakah was considered a charity for Muslims.

The Igugulethu Primary School in Vlakfontein, South of Johannesburg, was the site of our first pilot programme6 which later came to be known as the Build-A-School Campaign. It was, however based on the principle of a shared responsibility borne out from a sense of a shared destiny. We believed that the need to support and assist poorer communities as a means of serving the Creator was an Islamic imperative of Huquq-ul-Ibad and Huquq-ul-Allah. This was our attempt at shifting the paradigm from one of “preservation” to that of “service” – a means through which we would guarantee the continued prosperity of the Muslim community.

The new Igugulethu Primary School, located in an informal settlement, was not merely an exercise through which we built a school or sought to provide infrastructure that was more conducive to education. The experience of forming a collaborative partnership with a disadvantaged community has resulted in the acceptance of SANZAF, a Muslim organisation, as a bone fide benefactor who has the well being and growth of the community as its core principle.

The initial focus was on the education of primary school children; the resultant adult interest and impact on the community has led to a variety of other initiatives that will enhance the school into a precinct that caters to needs of the whole area.

In projects of this nature, NGO’s, especially faith-based organisations, often need to build trust in volatile environments where lack of services, infrastructure, unemployment, basic health and other resources become battlegrounds. SANZAF has achieved credibility and trust as a partner in the Vlakfontein community, a responsibility it has met with great respect and visionary planning.

The Big Picture

The Build-A-School Campaign is but one part of a much bigger project known as the Golden Mile Initiative a.k.a the Golden Smile Initiative, an imaginative and challenging project through which SANZAF hopes to establish several educational cum community learning centres. The Golden Smile Initiative will be a lasting legacy of Muslim service to the poor.

The extent of the project, beginning at the intersection of Nirvana Drive and the main arterial Golden Highway (see map) will include the newly established Lehae Township, Vlakfontein and Finetown, a distance of 10.2km and is estimated to cost R1,5 million. The project will directly affect 3000 families, giving them access to education and other opportunities to enhance their skills.

The Lehae Precinct

The local governments plans for the first phase of the Lehae housing project, Lehae Proper, is almost complete and is expected to yield 3,134 stands. Already 2,500 houses have been occupied by approved beneficiary families from select informal settlements nearby. In total there will be close to 10,000 homes in Lehae when it is completed.

SANZAF has identified the need for a community learning centre comprising a crèche cum nursery. The centre will also be able to accommodate adult learners, afterhours. It is hoped that the learning centre will serve as a hub for development. Currently a metal-freight container houses 110 children on the proposed site, while the elderly use the facility for social gatherings.

The site has the capacity for a fully-fledged crèche cum nursery school with sufficient play area that can be fenced off to ensure a safe and secure environment for approximately 120 children. The rest of the site has the potential to house a simple adult learning and skills development centre with a focus on ABET and a service centre for the community.

SANZAF is also exploring the feasibility of establishing a 20 learner IT training facility for the school going children as well as the adults living in the community.

This is a comprehensive concept that will enable a new community to centralise its development and include adults and children into a viable self-sufficient socially healthy community. With child-care comes a sense of security and a freedom to engage in employment, also the availability of skills development resources in close vicinity removes the cost of transport and tuition. This holistic approach creates a supportive network that forms social barriers against criminality and abuse.

SANZAF aims to instil a sense of permanence into the lives of people whose status has been informal and uncertain.

NOTE: SANZAF has already made some strides in forging a relationship with the broader community by planning 2500 fruit trees, one each in every yard of existing residents. SANZAF also organised the first every school graduation and honours day programme (in conjunction with the school) awarding trophies and certificates to all the top achievers in each grade. Both initiatives were warmly received and seen as progressive and aiding the communities developmental needs.

The Vlakfontein Precinct

With the establishment of the Igugulethu Primary School, SANZAF has broadened its vision to add an IT training facility onto the existing site. The 20 seater facility will serve both the learners of Igugulethu Primary as well as the general community (afterhours) and will be erected on school property. This would enhance the educational core idea to include computer skills for young adults and jobseekers.

NOTE: The Islamic Medical Association has recognised the potential of the initiative and hopes to partner SANZAF in developing a Primary Health care clinic in close proximity to the IT centre and school. SANZAF has helped secure permission from the Department of Education for the IMA to erect a clinic on the school site, and they are currently awaiting confirmation from donors before proceeding. Collaboration between health and education professionals with an Islamic ethos will result in the positive care of the most vulnerable in the community.

The Fine Town Precinct

The infrastructure for this area already exists and with planning and management can be a viable center for service development. The existing skills development center will be equipped with an IT training facilities and expanded to present training for job placement. Its catchment area extends to Grasemere and Migson Manor, both within walking distance to the centre.

NOTE: Currently SANZAF is supporting a host of educational and developmental projects on this site. We are also piloting a vegi-tunnel project and new planting techniques are being used to grow spinach and other vegetables for sale to the community.


Islam is not new to South Africa. For over 300 years Muslims have lived, worked and worshiped in this country and a great number of people have proselytised and huge amounts of resources have been spent in promoting it, yet, Muslims still make up not more than 2% of the population.

One can argue about the past. We can differ about what worked before and what could have worked better. One thing is for certain, a “preservation” mindset will not work in the current context. We must think “service” if we are to grow this Ummah and if we are to take the rest of the country with us on the road to prosperity.

The idea of a Golden Mile growing into a Golden Smile is refreshing and innovative in its conceptual stage. It is not an impossible dream and SANZAF has a proven record of achieving its targets. This is a proposal with immensely concrete possibilities. To realize it we need you to become a partner who has the foresight to see the tremendous difference it will make in the lives of the poor and vulnerable and the difference it will make in the future of our country and our Ummah!

2 shared ideas:

Crimson Shimmer March 10, 2009 at 11:18 PM  

Oh my gaaaaaaad!
way too much to read!
wasnt surprised to hold flag to the first comment... lol
hope you are well lady.
your blog has the wonderful scent of a fresh garden.
keep up the spirits ;)

M Junaid March 12, 2009 at 8:36 PM  

Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance.