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At the sod-turning ceremony held at Thushanang Primary School last week, General Electric’s (GE) Steam Power committed R20 million towards the removal of asbestos classrooms and infrastructure upgrades to benefit over 1,000 learners.

The initiative, which forms part of GE’s school infrastructure upgrade project, also helps the school meet the norms and standards of the School Infrastructure Regulations.

This is one of four school infrastructure projects that GE aims to roll out in 2019 in and around the province. 

Nthabiseng Kubheka, GE Steam Power, Executive Project Director, explained the company’s involvement in this type of project as being part of its responsible corporate citizenship. “GE strives to uplift the communities where it does business through various initiatives including skills training and local supplier development,” Kubheka said, adding: “We recognise that to make a sustainable impact, we must be deliberate in our efforts to support social change. We have been supporting schools in the province through upgrades since 2013.”

“A safe and healthy environment aids learning and contributing towards the reduction of asbestos in schools helps achieve this. The impact, we believe, will be felt by not only by the learners and educators but the entire community,” said Kubheka. 

In addition to the removal of the harmful material from the building, GE also identified the need to improve the facilities.

“Over and above the removal of the asbestos, we found that the school had insufficient ablution blocks and no kitchen area. To remedy this, we will provide new ablutions, equipment for the kitchen as well as improve the outdoor recreational spaces, provide an outdoor assembly area, tuck shop and a vegetable garden,” concluded Kubheka.

To support the development of local businesses, in line with its continuous strategy to empower local businesses, GE has contracted the services of Pegasus Civil Construction to lead the upgrades. The company is based in Mpumalanga and has further committed to subcontract a minimum of 25% of the work to local SMEs and employ within the community. 

Maria Ndimande, Pegasus Civil Construction Director, commented: “We’re honoured to be a part of this project and are committed to delivering a facility that will enhance the learners’ school experience. All labour will be sourced from the local area and, through our partnership with GE, we will run both skills development and enterprise development programmes over the course of construction.” Read more: Training women in developing countries to become solar engineers