It is well known that to secure the future of an individual one of the best investments that can be made is in their education. Education is also a cornerstone for prosperous economies and a key to sustainable development. When families are unable to provide for the basic needs of their children, or when children are rendered vulnerable by the loss of one or more of their parents or a similar trauma, the risk of children dropping out of school is significantly increased. To reduce this risk Thandanani undertakes a range of activities aimed at supporting the education of the children in the families we support.
Many of the families we support cannot afford to purchase school uniforms and stationary for those children attending school. As a result, these children often attend school in old “hand me down” uniforms. This often sets them apart and makes them vulnerable to stigmatisation and ostracism. Consequently, at the start of each school year, Thandanani assesses the condition of the school uniforms of the children on our database and, where necessary, facilitates the purchasing of uniforms for those children whose uniform requires replacing. This helps prevent the child from being stigmatised at school and helps foster acceptance and encourage school attendance.
Thandanani Fieldworkers also undertake regular home and school visits to monitor the attendance and performance of the children in the households we support. In this way we provide support and encouragement and are able to identify and address any difficulties as these arise. Through this process Thandanani has also been able to establish good working relationships with the schools in the communities in which we work and teaching staff often alert us to difficulties being experienced by children attending their school. In this way Thandanani is able to identify and assist other children and families in need of our support.
Each year Thandanani also makes some funds available to support recent school leavers pursue tertiary studies. Xolani Mbuyisa mentioned in the story above is a recipient of this type of support which usually takes the form of a monthly “travel & subsistence bursary” that enables the student to travel to college or university each day. This allowance is conditional upon the student having being accepted at a recognised tertiary institution and having applied for financial assistance via the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). Thandanani’s ability to provide bursaries and other forms of educational support to children in need has been greatly enhanced with the recent establishment of the Penny Haswell Education Fund, in honour of the late Penny Haswell who was one of Thandanani’s first volunteers. To date this fund has raised R157,430 to support children’s education.
Another initiative currently under way is the development of a new Early Childhood Development (ECD) focus in the work that Thandanani does. With bursaries from the Durban Thekwini Education Trust (DTET) two of Thandanani’s staff are currently being formally trained in Early Childhood Development and, during the course of 2015, all our fieldworkers will receive training in basic ECD concepts. These initiatives form the foundation for the planned introduction of a home-based ECD programme which Thandanani hopes to introduce in partnership with Dlalanathi and Singakwenza in 2015 or 2016. This initiative is aimed at capacitating the caregivers of young children to actively engage these children in simple games and activities – using toys made from recycled materials – that incorporate basic educational and developmental concepts. In this way we plan to empower caregivers to actively nurture and promote the development of the young children in their care through intentional relationship and regular engagement and stimulation within the context of the home.
All these initiatives are aimed at promoting development; facilitating access to education; and reducing the likelihood of absenteeism, failure and premature exiting from schooling for the children we support. Ultimately, our goal is to encourage and support children’s education in the knowledge that education is one of the best investments one can make to secure the future of an individual and, for that matter, a nation.