Significant strides have been made in improving equity of access to schooling in South Africa – however, we are a long way from achieving quality and equality in education. This fact is most pronounced in areas such as ours.

Poorly qualified, unmotivated and frequently absent teaching staff, lack of infrastructure, insufficient support and oversight, and poor access to the most basic teaching resources, are features of schooling for many rural children. Poor leadership capacity in these schools is compounded by the inability of parents (many of whom are illiterate) to ensure effective governance through School Governing Bodies.

Failure to provide our rural children with a decent education profoundly impacts their life opportunities, entrenching a hopeless cycle of inter-generational poverty.

In an effort to address education quality challenges in the area, we initiated our Rural School Development Project in 2007. The project began with the building of classrooms to house the local primary school, and soon expanded to address issues of education quality through our work with the teachers and school governing body at the school. The project has recently broadened in scope, to include several other local schools and will ultimately offer support on all aspects of education (eg. infrastructure, high quality teaching equipment and materials, teaching methods, curriculum, administration and budgeting, staff management and development, leadership etc.)

Sharing resources through our rural school development programme

We recently added our first secondary school to our programme – the extract below is taken from a field report prepared by our education co-ordinator following our first contact with the school:

Annette, Phumzile and Khuselo visited Dalubaso SSS to deliver teaching materials on Friday 23 April. Dalubaso is an impressive looking school near Mqanduli where buses transport the students to & from school. It has a student enrolment of ~1 100 Grade 10, 11 and 12 students and we were told that it achieved a 57% matric pass rate in 2009.

We met the principal briefly who welcomed us and sent us on to the Biology and Science teachers. The laboratory is a large, well planned facility but, according to the teachers, they lack chemicals & other equipment and they share a microscope with other schools on a rotational basis. They were delighted with the resources we brought with us and, after a short discussion with the principal, it was agreed that they would visit Nqileni on 28 April to select and transport more materials from our store. This they did, taking with them boxes of chemicals, packs of posters, kits of Science equipment, models (including a full skeleton) and, the main gift, a microscope complete with packs of prepared slides (these materials were part of a large donation received from Transnet last year).

Dalubaso SSS is considered one of the best rural schools in this area but it was disconcerting to see a ‘Library’ consisting only of 1 000s of text books, many of which are still in their original plastic wrappers. I was assured by the teachers that every student has 1 or even 2 text books which they use daily. However, they obviously need encyclopaedias, reference books, fiction and non fiction as in any normal library.