No-ofisi school is located in the poorest district in South Africa, in the heart of Nqileni village: the most remote and deprived community in this district.

Nqileni has no running water, no toilets, no clinic, no electricity and no access road. It does have a government school but the mud hut building has collapsed, there is no furniture, the teachers attend infrequently, and when teaching does happen it takes place on the grass outside. If it rains there is no school, and on average half the children attend 2 days or fewer per week.

No-ofisi School outside 

No-ofisi School (with a see-through building!)

Even when teachers and kids are present the level of education is a joke: its so depressing to listen to kids proudly recite: “gas has no colourless” and “a family is a group consisting” (full stop!).

We’ve all had enough of watching bright little kids’ futures evaporate in an educational vacuum and so we’ve decided to do something about it!

But who are “we”?

Fortunately, Nqileni is one of most amazing, peaceful communities situated in paradise: beautiful beach, ancient forests, rivers, dolphins, whales, cows and chickens all live in harmony with this ultra-traditional amaBomvana (Xhosa) community who still live off the land in tune with the ancient cycle of the seasons.

This idyllic setting is home to one of the most innovative community-based lodges in the world: Bulungula Lodge ( The lodge is jointly owned by the local community and was recently named one of the world’s 25 Ultimate Ethical Travel Experiences.

The lodge is one of many projects currently running in the village in an effort to uplift this community out of poverty, while not destroying the many positive aspects of this traditional African lifestyle. These projects were all initiated by the Bulungula Incubator: a not-for-profit organisation specialising in innovative rural development projects.

 Nqileni village view

A view of Nqileni village

This school rehabilitation project is one of the Bulungula Incubator’s (BI) most ambitious projects yet and involves an exciting group of dynamic young South Africans.

We are:

Julia Cloete (Bulungula Incubator General Manager)
Julia is an environmental anthropologist who has spent the last 9 months of her life conducting in-depth research into the natural resource uses of children relative to other household members in rural Eastern Cape.  The bulk of Julia’s research has been undertaken in Nqileni and lucky for us she has collected a full census of the community, their resources and income generating activities and has taken an independent register of schooling attendance.  Her research is part of her environmental science masters degree for which she is enrolled at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, as a Mandela Rhodes Scholar.  Julia has worked for a number of not-for-profit organisations including having served as the vice-chair of SHAWCO and working part time for The International Institute for Medidation and Conflict Resolution (IIMCR), the Master Farmer’s Programme (WWF) and the Mandela Rhodes Community of Scholars (MRCS).

Rejane Woodroffe (Bulungula Incubator Director)
Réjane is currently the Chief Economist and Head of International Portfolio Investments for Metropolitan Asset Managers. She heads up the team that manages MetAM’s R4billion international asset exposure and also has responsibility for forecasting the local and global macro-economic variables.  Rejane serves on the Board of Directors of Rape Crisis Cape Town and is an active member of the Ford Foundation’s International Fellowships Alumni.

Dave Martin (Bulungula Incubator Deputy Director)
Dave is founder and co-owner of Bulungula Lodge and is a forerunner in conceptualizing and implementing economically and ecologically sustainable tourism initiatives.  His work has included extensive lobbying with local government to provide basic services to remote rural communities, as well as researching and testing various alternative technologies, and their usefulness to improving rural living.  Dave is the head of the Eastern Cape branch of Back Packers South Africa, and a member of their National Co-ordinating Committee.  Indeed, Dave has spent much time researching how to offer the ultimate backpacking experience by extensively travelling the back roads of China, South America and most importantly embarking on an epic one and a half year journey through Africa in 1997/98 when he crossed through 24 countries using public transport.

So join us on our adventurous journey of transforming this officially designated “disaster school” into a model rural eco-school to be proud of.

In keeping with the latest internet trends, we’ll be running an ongoing blog of our attempts to rehabilitate our school. If you’d like to follow our progress with this project only, then just select the Category at the top of this page on the right: “Crisis school rehabilitation”. 

 No-ofisi school inside

Inside No-ofisi school