Friday, February 24, 2006


I know that I do not need to introduce Nelson Mandala to the readers of this Blog, but you may not be familiar with his foundation. The Nelson Mandela Foundation.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation was founded in 1999 by its name sake to foster the ideals of freedom and to encourage opportunity and service. Towards this end, the organization promotes dialogue by bringing people, partners and organisations together to debate, analyse, review options and consider the possibilities for action.

The Major Programmes of the Foundation are:

The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory and Commeration

Lecture and Seminar Series

HIV/ Aids

Education and Rural Development

So, while The Nelson Mandela Foundation paints on a broad canvas, I am only going to write about their efforts in the field of education.

Their web site states about their "The Education Programme":

"Rural Education is a major focus of the Nelson Mandela Foundation. The Foundation takes full cognisance of the impact that poverty has on life in rural areas, and on children's schooling in particular. "

In order to make a difference in an educational context of deep poverty in which a generation of young people is growing up with few possibilities the Nelson Mandela Foundation has established a National Rural Schools Programme with three components:

- An investigative study

- A pilot project based in the Eastern Cape, one of South Africa's poorest provinces. The key aim of this project is to enable rural schools to become centres of educational excellence and examples of good practice in poor communities.

- Rolling out the programme in stages over a three-year period, extending it from the Eastern Cape to a further 300 schools around the country.

The Foundation focuses on curriculum development projects that promote values such as "reconciliation, peace, justice and community service in education". These values are also the basis for the programme's activities in the school communities where the focus is on improving literacy in the community, promoting gender equity, and encouraging democratic community leadership approaches. The programme will measure its impact against the following indicators:

- School and community initiatives to reduce hunger and, in some cases, starvation among learners and even teachers in particularly disadvantaged schools.

- School and community providing mutual support in facing the impact of AIDS on families and staff of the school.

- School and community deciding on schools' infrastructural requirements (eg. raw materials, classrooms, staff room, principal's office, toilets, and special rooms) and deciding how members of the community can provide them using local resources.

- School and community deciding on what additional resources and equipment are required, and finding ways to obtain these through fundraising with the Foundation's assistance or through their own efforts.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation says that despite notable changes to provide an education system that builds democracy and social justice, inequality still prevails, which is more pronounced in rural communities. The Foundation seeks to support rural schools and bases its efforts on the conviction that rural education and its impact on development are deeply connected with rural poverty.

Rural communities were systematically and deliberately deprived of resources under apartheid. And they continue to lag behind the rest of the country. Because of this, the Foundation believes that ways must be found to improve the quality of rural education, and those who are formally tasked with social development and poverty alleviation should to pay more attention to the untapped potential of rural communities to lead the transformation of their lives.

Emerging Voices, a study of education in South African rural communities, published in October 2004 sets out a number of elements of the Foundation's education programmes and interventions.

More than 140 public schools have been built in South Africa by the Foundation during the last decade. And these were mainly opened in rural communities where the need and the impact would be the greatest. There is a complex relationship between poverty and education that needs to be understood along with formulating a clear strategy for policy and implementation. More about this can be read at The Nelson Mandela Foundation web site.

The National Rural Schools Programme was started in the Eastern Cape with a pilot project that involved 15 schools. Based on an in-depth survey conducted in 2002, and which profiled the needs of approximately 50 schools in the Eastern Cape, the Foundation focused it's work there. This, however, is only the first stage of implementing the wider National Rural Schools Programme, which will cover approximately 300 schools around South Africa.

This pilot project provides short-term relief to 15 schools and focuses on making available learning materials, library books and access to computers. The programme will also create small business enterprises and agricultural and horticultural experimentation projects in addition to connecting with the Foundation's HIV/AIDS initiative to facilitate programmes for communities and support networks for families living with AIDS.

The Foundation's National Rural Schools Programme seeks to encourage the linking of schools and the communities in which they are located. In this way, they can reduce the impact of poverty on children's learning. Most of the schools participating in the project are situated in the old 'Transkei' where the lack of the most basic physical resources in schools undermines the drive for quality in education.

The Foundation is leveraging off the lead that Nelson Mandela has given and the number of 'Mandela schools' around South Africa is increasing. And wide-ranging partnerships are continuing to be built with the private sector, international development agencies, universities and government. The Foundation says that: "This first stage of the intervention has been facilitated by a partnership between the Foundation and the Eastern Cape Department of Education, Fort Hare University, the Shoma Foundation and a number of private sector donors."

The Foundation has established, and continues to fund, a Unit for Rural Schooling and Development as a direct response to the challenges of rural schooling. This project is based at the University of Fort Hare and is a partnership initiative with the university and the Eastern Cape Department of Education. This Unit provides a way to support schools so that they can develop as centres of educational excellence. The Unit, which was established formally in November 2003, also allows this to take place in a practical manner. It also demonstrates how they can be the focus for social development in rural communities.

The Foundation says that there are three (but I count 4) principal areas in which the Unit concentrates its work:

- the organisation of innovation and learning;

- methodologies for innovation and social change;

- concentrating on change that is driven by local agents rather than external players; and

- developing new approaches to learning and teaching.

And the Foundation's Unit boasts of the following a achievements to date:

- The launching of a Youth Change Agents programme (More about this can be read at the web site).

- Following a survey of information communication technologies (ICTs) and computer facilities in schools in the Eastern Cape conducted by the Unit, computer laboratories were funded in 15 schools. (More about this can be read at the web site).

- A research programme was started with the support of Multichoice Africa Foundation. This program has supported doctoral fellows as well as fellows on the Masters level.
(More about this can be read at the web site).

I have to end now, but I do not want to wrap up without mentioning The Mandela Rhodes Foundation

Established to support human resource development in education and a number of related fields particularly in South Africa and in Africa more generally The Rhodes Trust and the Mandela Rhodes Foundation hosted a centenary reunion in Cape Town from 25 January to 2 February 2003. "The celebrations took the form of an international reunion for Rhodes Scholars, the first ever held outside the United Kingdom. A series of discussions were held on key aspects of the nation-building project in which South Africa has been engaged since 1994: constitutional democracy, education, health, civil society, business, the environment, and arts and culture."

The Rhodes Trust states that its trustees desired to mark the Centenary of their foundation by "a significant gesture of investment in South Africa which had been the original source of their own endowment. They desired furthermore to mark the transformation of South Africa by honouring the principal architect of that transformation, Nelson Mandela. In this way, the Rhodes Trust signals its own sense of the evolution of its mission over time but in line with the principles of its founder."

The web site of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation states that its objective is to contribute within South Africa "to the achievement of true equality, of dignity and educational opportunity for all, to the enhancement of the cultural heritage, to the strengthening of democracy, and the rule of law, and to the alleviation of poverty and suffering, especially amongst the children of the country".

Time is up and I have to go. Please visit The Nelson Mandela Foundation to learn more about all of the things it is doing that I did not have time to write about in this article.


Postscript - You may have noticed that there has been a long pause since my last articles, and for this I apologize. But an illness in my family has required a significant amount of my time and attention and unfortunately, the Blog has had to suffer. I will try to pick up the pace on the posting of the articles, but as we never know what the future holds, I can only hope to do better, but I am unable to guarantee it.

With warm regards, I remain

Yours truly,

Oscar H. Blayton

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