New Beginnings

New Beginnings: Christel House School, quality education to children in need

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” The words of the 12th Century Philosopher Maimonides are integral to the ethos of Christel House School.

Christel House is a place where learners receive a new beginning to a future they could only have dreamed possible. Part of a global operation, Christel House was started by co-founder of the timeshare business RCI and philanthropist Christel DeHaan. Christel House offers a free education to children in dire poverty.

Principal Ronald Fortune has been integral to the school’s success over the last decade.

“It’s an amazing school, it’s my eleventh year at the school and over these eleven years I’ve seen the school grow from strength to strength. Some schools don’t want children coming from these backgrounds, but we take them from their desperate vantage points, their homes, and we make absolutely something out of them. Two-hundred children have gone through our hands, 95 percent of them have graduated, are in meaningful employment, or they are studying, and for us that’s when this entire project comes to fulfilment,” says Fortune.

Nafeesah Adams is in Grade 10 and started at Christel House in Grade 3. Before that she was in a public school in Mannenberg where she lives. Nafeesah’s grandmother enrolled her at Christel House and told her that it would acknowledge her abilities.

“Kids were exposed to gang violence and I didn’t feel comfortable there (Mannenberg public school). I can’t explain how Christel House has changed my life, it’s a great school," says Adams.

The very children that other schools seem fit to reject are the ones that Christel House has embraced. Ronald Fortune’s passion, commitment and pride in the school is evident in every word.

“This year the school is coming together. The entire class of Grade 10 does mathematics. Everybody wants a child of quality, but we take them right at the bottom. Our children come in at Grade R and we take them all the way to matric. We will work one child at a time to success,” says Fortune.

Christel House has a holistic approach to achieving success, which includes:

  • Quality education
  • Nutritious meals
  • Regular healthcare
  • Life skills training
  • Character development
  • Work-study opportunities
  • Empowerment programs for parents and community members

None of these resources come cheap. The school survives on the goodwill of donors, from individuals to corporates.

“There are so many people who put their hands in their pockets and recognise the value in what we do and want to be part of it,” says Fortune.

It’s clear that while academic development is crucial, equally important is the emphasis on providing a space where children can flourish as people.

A lot has changed for Nafeesah. A recent trip to America where she attended a music programme was a far cry from the gangster-ridden Mannenberg. As exciting as the trip was, Adams is equally enthused about other learnings.

“Christel House also makes you a better person as it enforces the four core values: respect, responsibility, independence and integrity,” says Adams.

Henk from Rondebosch called in: “I recently got involved at Christel House, it’s the most unbelievable success story. The teachers are passionate, they take kids from the poorest of poor to twelve years of tuition, and they come out well balanced, holistic wonderful kids”.

Cheryl from Ottery called in and expressed disappointment that the children she tried to enrol were not accepted. The principal in a non-defensive way explained their selection criteria. They take the children whose needs are greatest and direst.

“There are close to 1000 applicants and only 60 spaces in Grade R. We take the children who will not survive had Christel House not intervened," says Fortune.

“Of the 270 high school students we have a school band of 145 brass instrumentalists. Every year we send two students overseas. In terms of sport, one of our students is representing Western Province in high jump. We have two or three national (sword) fencers at our school,” says Fortune.

“I want to be a chartered accountant, so that’s my dream,” says Adams.

Given the environment in which she is being nurtured, Nafeesah Adams’ dream is well within her reach. Maimonides would surely nod his head in approval.

Visit their school in Swallowcliffe road in Ottery or go to[ http://christelhouse.org/our-schools/south-africa/]( http://christelhouse.org/our-schools/south-africa/)

Listen to the audio for more detail.


CapeTalk welcomes all comments that are constructive, contribute to discussions in a meaningful manner and take stories forward.

However, we will NOT condone the following:

  • Racism (including offensive comments based on ethnicity and nationality)
  • Sexism
  • Homophobia
  • Religious intolerance
  • Cyber bullying
  • Hate speech
  • Derogatory language
  • Comments inciting violence.

We ask that your comments remain relevant to the articles they appear on and do not include general banter or conversation as this dilutes the effectiveness of the comments section.

We strive to make the CapeTalk community a safe and welcoming space for all.

CapeTalk reserves the right to: 1) remove any comments that do not follow the above guidelines; and, 2) ban users who repeatedly infringe the rules.

Should you find any comments upsetting or offensive you can also flag them and we will assess it against our guidelines.

CapeTalk is constantly reviewing its comments policy in order to create an environment conducive to constructive conversations.

Read More
New Beginnings: Life after a drowning

New Beginnings: Life after a drowning

A three-year-old girl falls into the family pool. 10 minutes pass before she is discovered and is miraculously revived.

New Beginnings: Cape Camino - A journey to the self in the south

New Beginnings: Cape Camino - A journey to the self in the south

In order to find yourself you first need to lose yourself. Now there is a Cape Town route to enlightenment, the Cape Camino.

New Beginnings: Seed Academy

New Beginnings: Seed Academy

Seed Academy assist young people achieve their entrepreneurial dream by offering supporting and training

New beginnings: A healthy lifestyle

New beginnings: A healthy lifestyle

He gave up his corporate job to follow his passion and start an online community which is dedicated to health and fitness.

New beginning: Delft Big Band rise to fame

New beginning: Delft Big Band rise to fame

The band that pulled through against all odds from the gang infested streets of Delft and making it to international platforms

New beginnings: retiring to a new country

Marianne and David Heron retired to South Africa from Ireland and started a new life.

New beginning: My name is Dave Smith and I am a drug addict

New beginning: My name is Dave Smith and I am a drug addict

Rock bottom came when he lost access to his children, but his battle with drugs had just begun.

New beginnings: coming from a small town to work in a big city.

New beginnings: coming from a small town to work in a big city.

New life, new city, new job... This is the story of a young graduate from Port Elizabeth starting a career in Cape Town.

Popular articles
Lessons from the spectacular collapse of Steinhoff (e.g. diversity matters)

Lessons from the spectacular collapse of Steinhoff (e.g. diversity matters)

Bruce Whitfield interviews Gordon Institute of Business Science Dean (and marketing expert) Professor Nicola Kleyn.

Number of South Africans visiting the seaside has dropped

Number of South Africans visiting the seaside has dropped

Fedhasa's CEO is encouraging South Africans to take a look at the specials that are currently out there and make their bookings.

Casac to challenge Zuma's appeal of Abrahams High Court order

Casac to challenge Zuma's appeal of Abrahams High Court order

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) will appeal a High Court order that its head Shaun Abrahams leave office.

Instead of investigating state capture they are investigating me - Jacques Pauw

Instead of investigating state capture they are investigating me - Jacques Pauw

Journalist and author Jaques Pauw says he doesn't understand why he being investigated and summoned to appear before police.

 Metrorail central line trains suspended due to vandalism

Metrorail central line trains suspended due to vandalism

Metrorail regional manager, Richard Walker says criminals are making it hard for them to operate in the area.

Steinhoff money woes and why you should care

Steinhoff money woes and why you should care

The company lost around R100 billion leaving the JSE reeling in one of the biggest private sector business scandals.

How businessman Max Lichaba struck gold with his jewellery company

How businessman Max Lichaba struck gold with his jewellery company

Entrepreneur Max Lichaba built his own empire and is the CEO of Lichaba Creations and several other businesses. This is his story.