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To all of our incredible supporters and the GlobalGiving Community!
As the Charity Director for Maranatha Care Children, I often get asked about the reasoning behind the work we look to achieve. Simply put: “Why?”
To answer that it is important to understand the context of where we work. Whilst acknowledging progressive policies by the state which have led to the expansion of many services for children in South Africa, there are of course still large disparities, with a crucial need to confront the substantial barrier that the poorest children still face today. In terms of education, a child in the poorest quintile is three times less likely to complete secondary education (and as set out on our project page, only 26% of those in the Eastern Cape will complete their secondary education).
Yes; the realisation of the right to education is universally recognised, and nationwide in South Africa one in two learners in public schools receive free education. However, our project is one for children in care; all of those we support have had disrupted schooling and/or missed out on educational opportunities, especially when having spent time living on the street. The children often have massive educational backlogs to overcome; in our experience, whilst supporting a child having only passed at a low grade level but already 12 years of age, the mainstream primary schools will often not accept them.
We also have to act in the best interests of the children at the centre. Quality of education remains a major challenge, but beyond this, violence at school can be seen as a significant barrier; a survey from the South Africa Human Rights Commission/UNICEF highlighted that 27 per cent of high school learners feel unsafe at school (with 16 per cent having actually been threatened with a weapon at school). In Port Elizabeth (where our centre is based), some of the public schools are located nearby/within suburbs often defined by criminal and gang-related activity. The protection and welfare of the childen we support must remain paramount no matter what.
Nationwide some 582,000 children are out of secondary school. Lack of money and disability are major factors for this, and such barriers are clear to see. The waiting list for special schools can often be over a year, and these still require fees, transport and uniform costs. Yet when we have children as old as 15 who have never been to school we have to take the necessary action. We will not allow a child to get lost in the system. Consider this:
- There are more than 12,000 juvenile prisoners (under the age of 15) in South Africa (with the “youth” category constituting 70% of the offender population)
- Half of young offenders have never been beyond Grade 6 (primary school)
- Between 60-80% of prisoners cannot read well enough to get along in society. This corresponds with the rate of re-offending (with 80% back behind bars within three years in South Africa).
Central to all our work is the ideology that “The youth of today become the adults of tomorrow”. It truly makes political and social sense to invest in their development, and crucially, to invest in education.
And even with the younger children we support, in the context of the Eastern Cape, only 38% of children under five are exposed to an Early Childhood Development programme (of any kind); the lack of intellectual stimulation in early years has long-lasting effects, and children cannot function on a mainstream curriculum.
As such, this is where our project serves a crucial role. I am also qualified in social work, and based with the Siyakatala Centre in a voluntarily capacity as a social worker. This Global Giving project is not just about handing over funds, but working as part of a multi-disciplinary team approach were we all ensure the personal needs of every child is considered (and in my own role I will also attend meetings at schools with teachers to monitor educational progress). And to assist with this we arrange full assessments with educational psychologists; we try to arrange this prior to arranging a child’s school placement and within the first two months of all new children who arrive in the care of the centre. In 2012 to date we have arranged for five of these assessments to take place (which has resulted in three suitable school placements being carried out as a result of this).
As a charity we were able to cover ALL the educational costs at the centre for 2011, and through this project we have provided finances for children to attend six new schools in 2012 all suited to the specialist needs of fifteen of the children at the centre (with the particular schools having mechanisms in place for remedial, occupational therapy, smaller classes for children on an adapted curriculum and access to extra-curricular activity).
Our youngest girl (now aged 4) has also had her specialist pre-primary support covered through the money we have raised. Further to this, we have continued our commitment to sponsoring school expenses (including uniform, stationery and transport costs) for our other high school children. We have one teen girl at the centre attending a specialist vocational school, where she studies core curriculum areas whilst enrolling in a practical work topic to help with future employment. We also support children at the centre with learning difficulties, and have covered transport costs for three of our children (aged 11, 15 and 16) receiving their schooling at a specialised education school for children with intellectual disability (with an emphasis on basic literacy, numeracy and skills training). Our older teen boys are also at one of the best public schools, and I am arranging for them to visit the local University in the next term to look at courses that are offered which they may be interested in; as the project continues we hope to raise future funding for vocational college training and University costs for young people we are able to support through this initiative (as at the centre and central to the charity, we believe in supporting those in our care after the age of 18, whilst promoting their independence wherever possible).
Yes, it is all too clear that with a lack of finances for many NPO’s in South Africa such visions become hard to achieve. But we believe ALL the children at the centre can be given the best educational opportunity. We can ensure children have their rights and needs recognised, we can help young people overcome their educational backlogs and we can arrange opportunities for specialist schooling where children can see their potential realised.
In my last report I set out how, after the overwhelming support, we had extended our fundraising targets! However since then our donations have reduced, and now is the time for me to urge our supporters to take action! If you’re reading this report and taking an interest in our cause, please help; any donation you can spare, any email you can send, any facebook status or tweet you can post (to raise awareness)! The minimum donation is £5 ($8) and I cannot underestimate how far each donation can go towards opening doors for a brighter future that these young people truly deserve!
THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT!!!
For all enquiries contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Children and young people that deserve support!