Pay it forward for pupils with Bernie

Bernadetta “Bernie” Kabou-Block

It has been a rough year for pupils and one made worse for Bernadetta “Bernie” Kabou-Block, who was studying in a small home in Capricorn Park with seven others.

Added to this, her grandmother and guardian, Mieta Block, 63, lost her job as a carer and had to return to Kimberley.

This would have meant a change of school and language of instruction for Bernadetta and being in a different province in her final year of school.

Bernadetta, 17, is an accomplished singer, who earned herself a scholarship at Wynberg Girls’ Junior School in Grade 4. She then moved to the high school.

She realised she would have to move to the school’s hostel if she wanted to stay in Cape Town, but she would have to find the money for that since it wasn’t covered by her scholarship.

She spoke to the school councillor Alison Eakin and they brainstormed ideas. At the end of October, they launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise R63 000 for the year’s hostel fees.

“And if that didn’t work we decided to host a concert,” said Bernadetta.

“The response was overwhelming,” said Bernadetta on Tuesday after completing her final exam for the year. Within a few days, she exceeded her target with funds coming in from America, friends and people she had never met.

This inspired her to change the concept of the concert and make it a “Pay it Forward Journey with Bernie” to provide funds for other girls at the school who are struggling because of the pandemic.

“A little goes a long way,” said Bernadetta on the eve of the concert which opened for 24-hour viewing on Tuesday December 8. The cost of the concert was a minimum donation of R70. Bernadetta has been singing since the age of 4 and has performed at the V&A Waterfront’s Band Slam competition and the Baxter Theatre.

She has also participated in the school’s dramatic productions, dance shows and choir festivals.

In Grade 9, Bernadetta was the solo singer in the Anthem Project. “Our grade wanted to promote awareness of the need for equality for the deaf,” she said.

Dayne Pearce, the school’s music teacher, said Bernadetta had joined the jazz band two years ago.

“She was very shy but has grown over time and now owns the stage. It’s been a lot of work, she’s very humble, it takes a lot to go on stage,” said Ms Pearce.

Wynberg Girls’ High principal Jennifer Wallace said Bernadetta possessed a rare combination of gifts.

“A phenomenal voice, the strength and tenacity to make it heard, a spirit of adventure combined with a ‘can-do’ attitude that has helped her overcome many obstacles in her life journey thus far. And she has a warm and compassionate heart. She epitomises the values of Wynberg Girls’ High School of inclusivity, integrity, courage, accountability, respect and empathy. And as a community we are enormously proud of her and what she is doing to help others,” said Ms Wallace.

In 2019, Bernadetta won the school’s “cultural pillar” award.

“This is a floating trophy for outstanding achievement,” she said.

“I also received the ‘1961 matric trophy’ for service and commitment in cultural activities at the end of the year and this year, I have just been appointed student leader of the cultural pillar for 2021.”

Bernadetta said the concert has been a lot of work. “But I’ve had a lot of help, and am pleased to see how it’s come together. I feel nervous, but it’s all for a good cause.”

Ms Pearce told the Bulletin on Wednesday morning that the concert was going well and so far had raised about R5 800 with people still buying tickets.