Hantam Community Education Trust

 Location: South Africa

Subject: Development & Education

Dates: 2002 – 2015

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Providing suitable education in the sparse region of the Karoo desert in South Africa.

Project History

Those who brave the dust and heat of South Africa’s Karoo region often find themselves traversing vast and silent spaces, seemingly devoid of human activity. But anyone who travels along the dirt road running east from the town of Colesberg towards the village of Steynsburg is nowadays met by an extraordinary sight: in the middle of a huge plain, ringed with hills and ridges, lies a modern educational complex, painted a cheerful yellow and flying the new South African flag. The complex has been created by the Hantam Community Education Trust and provides school education for around 200 children, a pre-school centre, evening classes for farmworkers, and vocational training for teenagers. The project began in 1989 when Lesley Osler and Claire Barnes-Webb, the wives of two local farmers, decided to establish a pre-school for the children of workers on their and a few neighbouring farms. The Karoo is a semi-desert, filled with fossils and relics of Stone Age communities. It is a fascinating but poor region, its dry scrub supporting only sheep farming. Distances between settlements are huge and in the past education for the indigenous communities, composed of people of Khoi descent and later Xhosa settlers, was rudimentary to non-existent. The next step was to establish a community-run primary school, with parents and farmers working together. Parents would have to help with building work and maintenance, contribute to school and transport fees, and help raise additional funds; farmers would have to give workers time off to attend to school affairs, help with transport, and also contribute to school fees. Crucially, the regional education authorities agreed to recognise the school, pay teachers’ salaries and provide basic equipment, whilst allowing the project to be privately co-ordinated. The success of the school led to an award from President Nelson Mandela in 1999, and by 2002 a primary health clinic, teacher development centre, and skills training centre had all been added. By this time many of the pupils had outgrown the school and were seeking further education at high school, college or university.

Project & ACE

To meet the requirement for graduating students, a further education bursary scheme was established, which ACE was pleased to support in 2003, enabling 13 students to benefit from the scheme, studying subjects ranging from electrical engineering to tourism to fine art. Since then we have continued our support, 22 students now benefiting in studies ranging from metalwork to medicine, teaching to agricultural mechanics.

Project Updates

June 2010

We were delighted to hear that the Hantam Community Education Trust received a Platinum Impumelelo Award this year for their excellent sustainable work. The selection process for an Impumelelo Award is rigorous and demonstrates that an organisation truly reflects the values of sustainability. The award of R50 000 (approximately £4400.00) was presented by Transnet Foundation at the Impumelelo Innovations 2010 Sustainability Awards in South Africa.

Lesley Osler, founder, was also able to report that they are able to join in with the topical festivities of the World Cup being held in South Africa this year. An American Rotary Club have donated 47 tickets to the trust in order that the children can attend a match which will be an incredible experience for the children, many of whom have never been much further than the local town of Colesberg.