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Tsebo: Uplifting and creating hygienic school environments through a sound SMME partnership

In line with Tsebo’s purpose statement which is, “we develop people, to serve people, to uplift society” Tsebo Cleaning and Hygiene Solutions initiated a project to provide specialised cleaning and training for four government schools in the townships of Atteridgeville, Mamelodi and Alexandra in Gauteng. The Tsebo Foundation provided a substantial grant towards a partnership with Elevated Hygiene Services. The SMME partnership aimed to identify schools in need within communities that are in close proximity to some of Tsebo’s key customers.

Learners spend about half their day in school or participating in school activities, in which they can be exposed to highly contagious diseases – such as upper respiratory infections, eye infections, influenza, hookworm, gastro-enteritis (diarrhoea) and tonsillitis to name a few. Without adequate hygiene practices, particularly when it comes to clean toilets and the availability of soap for regular handwashing, these communicable diseases can quickly become epidemic. Aside from being essential for a safe and healthy learning environment, cleanliness and hygiene have a positive psychological benefit which promotes more effective learning.

“The benefit to the schools is manifold,” said Monwabisi (MK) Kalawe, CEO: Tsebo Cleaning and Hygiene Solutions. “There is an environmental compliance aspect because we are using environmentally friendly cleaning products and techniques, there’s a safety element, a cleanliness element and a hygiene element.

“Remember the future business leaders, entrepreneurs and professors are going to come from these kids, so in a small way we are helping to set a standard and create a solid foundation for these little ones to emerge as leaders.”

We develop people …

Tsebo’s relationship with Elevated Hygiene Services began when Tsebo Cleaning and Hygiene Solutions partnered with the SMME on a bid for large hospital project a few years ago.

As an industry leader, Tsebo recognises the need to develop SMMEs in South Africa and Elevated Hygiene Services was chosen from among a selection of small businesses. In addition to passing the objective criteria, they showed enormous passion and commitment. It subsequently became Tsebo Cleaning and Hygiene Solutions’ enterprise partner of choice and has benefitted from skills and knowledge share as well as operational support.

“At Tsebo, we believe in developing tomorrow’s entrepreneurs and supporting initiatives that enable people to support themselves, employ others, build community roots and create economic stability,” said Janine Tuck, National Operations Director: Tsebo Cleaning. “SMME development forms an important part of Tsebo’s sustainable business model and our purpose as a responsible organisation.”

When Tsebo Cleaning and Hygiene realised that there was a need for specialised, high-level cleaning in underprivileged schools, they looked to Elevated Hygiene Services as an obvious choice to partner on the initiative.

Being brought up and schooled in Mamelodi, Brian Zulu, owner and manager of Elevated Hygiene Services was well placed to identify disadvantaged schools that desperately needed help with elevating their cleaning and hygiene standards. The schools that were selected for this project were:

  • Thohoyandou Primary School in Atteridgeville.
  • Sikhanyisele Primary School in Mamelodi
  • Zenzeleni Primary School and Ithute Primary School in Alexandra.

Elevated Hygiene Services was tasked with deep cleaning the schools’ classrooms, passageways administrative buildings and ablution facilities.

“We are a small but growing business which supports 75 staff members,” said Zulu. “The relationship with Tsebo has benefitted us enormously, not just through training for specialised health cleaning, but also by allowing us the buying power normally only available to large corporations. We’re small now, but we hope to grow up to be a Tsebo one day.”

To serve people …

“Sustainability is a key mandate for Tsebo and it was important for us not to just do a once-off deep clean and leave. Our aim was to empower the schools with the necessary skills to carry on in the same direction,” said Kubashnie Naidoo, Regional Director: Tsebo Cleaning Inland. “We extended our donation to include cleaning equipment tools and chemicals as well as training, which was conducted by an independent cleaning auditor. For this we partnered with Marietjie Swanepoel an industry expert who specialises in healthcare cleaning and cross-contamination prevention. Marietjie will provide training on how clean for health, which will benefit the kids going forward.”

Swanepoel was also tasked with conducting high-level audits to identify problem areas and ensure the cleanliness of the schools, post cleaning.

“The level of cleaning was not quite up to standard at our school,” said Azwinndini Netshimbani Coordinator for Environment: Zenzeleni Primary School. “We struggle to find funds for cleaning products, so I do believe we are going to find this useful and fruitful, I believe our guys [cleaning staff] are going to learn a lot and you are going to motivate them.”

To uplift society …

“For me this project is very special,” said Zogan ML Opperman, HR Director: Tsebo Cleaning and Hygiene Solutions. “I started with my professional career about 30 years ago as an educator in a primary school. It’s always been clear to me that I needed to be involved in the community. Thirty years later I’m the HR Director of a cleaning company and we are giving back to the schools by making sure the children have a safe and healthy environment. That’s perfect for me, because my passion for education and love for my people has come together by working for a company that is able to provide a service that I’m very proud of.”

The school cleaning project was made possible through the support of the Tsebo Foundation, a Section 21 not-for-profit company, which conducts the corporate social outreach for the Tsebo Solutions Group. The Foundation oversees, manages and governs all charitable activity across the Group, ensuring effective management and channelling of funds, as well as a centralised reporting framework.

“Tsebo’s purpose statement – we develop people, to serve people, to uplift society speaks to the Tsebo Foundation mandate.  We’ve partnered with Elevated Hygiene Services with the aim to uplift our communities by providing a significant grant towards the schools cleaning project. Without growing and developing our communities, we cannot do business ethically and sustainably” said Cynthia Mothibe, Group Foundation Manager.

“Through our financial and advisory support of the project, we are empowering Elevated Hygiene Services to clean these schools. Not only are we living up to our mandate to support financially-sound SMME development, but we are also uplifting our local communities by providing the children with a safer and more hygienic learning environment.”

The outcome

Aside from the health benefits, a clean and hygienic school environment has a motivational impact on learners.

“It’s changed the mood at the school,” said Ntailane M Suzan, Principal of Sikhanyisele Primary School. “If the classrooms are clean, the learners are relaxed. You can sense the mood.”

Said Livhuwani Gabriel Ramano, Principal Thohoyandou Primary School: “We appreciate everything that Tsebo and Elevated Hygiene Services has done for us. Through this cleaning project you have helped to elevate us to a new level. When we sat down in the beginning we spoke about deliverables, but they have far exceeded our expectations.”

“We welcome the clean environment, we welcome this project for a healthy environment [it’s created],” said Netshimbani.