Currently the status of state education in South Africa is such:
At present, 10% of South African schools have no water supply, 14% have no electricity, 46% use pit-latrine toilets, 90% have no computer centres, 93% have no libraries, and 95% have no science laboratories.
(Source: Dept. of Basic Edu. 2011).
In my early 20’s I worked as a volunteer in The States. It was a bit of a weird situation: a white South African girl out of Apartheid South Africa, working with vulnerable Inner-City New York kids. The venue was set in the Catskills and looked a lot like a run-down version of the resort from the movie ‘Dirty Dancing’– minus the rich white folk, the Cha-Cha and the scandal – add lots of young black kids, hip-hop and the bible.
My stint of volunteer work stayed with me long after the experience was over and had a strong influence on the decisions and lifestyle choices I made later in life and so it comes as no surprise to me that volunteer tourism is such a fast growing and successful tourism trend. Volunteer programmes are available everywhere, especially in high need areas such as ‘the whole of Africa’. Chintsa has a great programme.
My friend Lou has done her share of volunteer work too. A self-described bolshie Aussie, Lou worked on Programmes in Australia before travelling, settling in Chintsa and setting up an NGO she calls African Angels: The idea being to impact the lives of local children and families by organising sponsorship to cover the cost of sending a child to a good school. A good school means a school with decent facilities, teachers who pitch for work and well implemented academic programmes. Many of these schools, while still operating under the umbrella of the state education department, are really semi private and pick up the tab for pretty much everything except a small percentage of the teachers’ salaries. Needless to say the monthly school fees can be steep.
As Lou implemented her programme many dynamics came into play including the challenges of transportation and sociocultural issues. Some kids managed the process but many struggled and Lou, never daunted, decided to change tack. To overcome these hurdles she simply started her own school. It was not really that simple. But as our wise friend Tom the Clown says, and I quote him again, ” if we stopped to think things through we would do nothing!”
Calling on the assistance of African Heartland Journeys and their Volunteer programme, Volunteer Africa, the volunteers came to the party and together under the guidance of Denver and his AHJ team transformed a derelict old country school building into A School For Angels. I wonder what impact working on this programme will have on the lives of these volunteers?
There are many schools of thought regarding the improvement of education in our country and the best way forward. Perhaps the secret lies in ‘the doing’ no matter the model.
A person with enormous determination and soul is required to pull off a stunt like this. Lou is that kind of person and these are her Angels.
Chintsa, March 2012