From drug dealer to art teacher

CAPE ARGUS / 26 JUNE 2017, 10:45PM / TAMRYN CHRISTIANS

GIVING BACK: Former drug dealer Mark Jeneker is now a dedicated art teacher. Picture: Supplied
Cape Town – He sold drugs to young kids and spent time in prison because of it. Now Mark Jeneker from Mitchell’s Plain is teaching young kids art.
 
Jeneker, 51, has been teaching young children how to paint at the Town Centre Library in Mitchell’s Plain. 
 
He is also a volunteer art teacher at Yellowwood Primary School. 
 
“I was a drug merchant for 20 years and after the murder of my two sons, I told myself that I needed to change,” he told the Cape Argus.
 
Not being able to pay for the funeral of one of his sons, he decided to approach Oval North Secondary School and Littlewood Primary School in Beacon Valley. There he sold art to raise funds for the funeral and managed to make over R5 000.
“That’s where it all started, I thought to myself ‘if I can ruin these children’s lives by selling drugs to them, I can make a difference by doing something positive’.” 
 
This year it will be the fifth year that Jeneker is actively involved in serving his community. He specialises in abstract art and creating 3D sculptures from recyclable material. In 2015, Jeneker won R25 000 for his school in a competition. 
 
He has also won numerous awards for the selfless commitment he has made to the community, including being LeadSA hero in August 2016. Yellowwood Primary principal Donovan Senosi said: “Jeneker has come in as a saviour.
 
“Since Jeneker’s arrival, all the kids talk about is art. They have no time to bother with negativity.” 
 
Jeneker has also gone on to sell some of his students’ art at the Cape Town Central Library, with one piece going for R750. 
 
Last February, Jeneker’s class was set alight by two pupils, but he persisted by having classes outside. The classroom has since been revamped. 
 
Jeneker started his initiative with the help of Bright Studios and currently sustains it through the sponsorship of Baze Art and also from his own pocket. The classes he offers at Yellowwood Primary costs a mere R5 per child. 
 
“I am not doing this for the money and some children can’t even afford to pay R5. I owe this to them.” 
 
Senosi approached Jeneker about two years ago to teach art at his school. 
 
“I am a firm believer in second chances and as you can see today, Jeneker is an example of what second chances can do. We want to do justice to his talent.”
 
The arts teacher can do so much more with help from the community. He isn’t asking for money, nor is he asking for recognition. All he wants to do is give back. 
 
“I have wasted most of my life doing the wrong things. My heart yearns for that never to happen to another child.”
 
Jeneker is appealing to potential sponsors to join and share his vision in creating a better life for the youth through art.
 
Cape Argus
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