The damning IMF report concluded: “As a result of low quality in education, South Africa ranks 127th out of 157 countries in the world in the IMFs Human Capital Index.” A further feature of South Africa’s weak performance in education is the fact that rural areas are affected disproportionately more than urban and peri-urban areas. The rural town of Botrivier has a population of approximately 8000 residents. The majority of these residents live in poverty as farm labourers or workers in local fruit packing factories. There is no high school in the area and learners have to travel to surrounding towns such as Caledon, Grabouw, Elgin, Hermanus and further afield to attend high school. Parents have to fork out funds from their meagre budgets to pay for transport. This results in more children dropping out of school and joining the low paid work force, further perpetuating the intergenerational cycle of poverty and trauma that is the legacy of Apartheid.
The theory of change model adopted by the BEF is based on the early identification of promising young children and enlisting them in a long-term programme of academic support, coaching and mentoring to ensure that excellent performance in the lower grades, leads to excellent matric results. Because of these results our learners will be able to compete favourably for entry into tertiary studies in the academic or vocational discipline of their choice. The programme further supports the matriculants through their transition phase from high school into tertiary studies. It tracks their progress throughout their study programme and provides supplementary funding. We also involve them in the activities of BEF so that they can inspire other learners in the programme towards similar achievements in their own lives.
The approach is values-based and supports learners in independent problem solving, enquiry and exploration through various online platforms under the supervision of their personal mentors. It promotes the involvement of parents and the school community. The annual Botrivier Challenge which BEF hosts, is an example of how the community is able to work together and begin to envisage a future free from poverty. The Challenge contributes towards creating an inspiring, wholesome rural experience which also uplifts local communities. As a town within an easy commute from Cape Town, it has the potential to be a highly desired tourist destination for weekends or longer stays. A thriving town economy will encourage the newly educated and skilled young people who have come through the BEF programme to come back home to give back to the local community and contribute to the economic development of the town.
The mentorship programme is an online mentoring service that provides each learner with 3 hours of individual mentoring sessions per month. It operates within the framework the Child Protection Legal framework of South Africa to ensure the safety of our learners as they interact with our team of mentors.
The approach that BEF uses is that the mentorship programme is not a tutoring programme, but an individualised support service to learners that aims to:
Children in rural areas often feel isolated from all the exciting events in cities. Hence excursions to Cape Town have been an important aspect of the BEF program. We have offered regular cultural experiences like musical productions at the Fugard, Baxter and Artscape. We’ve seen productions such as West Side Story, Kat and the Kings, The Rocky Horror Show and Danger in the Dark and many more educational excursions.
Our children and young people find these excursions most enjoyable as they get to experience the wider world. With current Covid-19 restrictions we are offering more outdoor activities to smaller groups at a time. When we have sufficient funds we will visit the Southern African Large Telescope in Sutherland.