The mission of Calabar Foundation is to have a positive impact on education and the individual lives of learners of all ages by funding technology programs, literacy programs, and capital projects at deserving schools across South Africa.
Understanding the Need
From the outside looking in, South Africa appears to be one of the success stories of post-colonial Africa. But even after the end of apartheid in the mid 1990s and several years of economic and political progress, many people struggle for basic needs and access to what most of us in the West would consider a “normal” education. They face historical, geographical, systemic, and cultural obstacles to their education.
Apartheid policies and the Bantu Education Act severely limited access to education for black students throughout much of the last half of the 20th Century. Many schools were closed and there were very few educated blacks who could enter the workforce as teachers. One can say that South Africa has its own “lost generation” in terms of education. And with more teachers leaving the profession than joining over the past 20 years, the situation for the current generation of learners is still dire.
In addition to historical problems, South African students face systemic and cultural challenges. There are over 21 native languages spoken throughout the country; 6 main languages. Most children grown up speaking their mother tongue at home and in primary school. However, from grade 4 onward, all textbooks, exams, and lectures are offered only in English and/or Afrikaans, putting many of these kids behind in their coursework before they even have a chance to understand subject materials. Many teachers also struggle with English.
Geography presents another challenge, greatly affecting access to schools. Many schools are located in rural villages on impassable roads that make busing to better performing schools impossible. Boarding schools that used to be able to support students from distant villages have steadily been closing their boarding facilities due to lack of funds and government support.
All of this is on top of an excruciatingly high unemployment rate – 25.5% nationally and over 50% in most rural villages – and the world’s highest rate of HIV/AIDS (nearly 20% of the adult population). South Africa is home to what some estimates report as over 2 million AIDS orphans. The story up until this point has been discouraging at the very least. Despite several years of successful economic development, it is clear that the challenges to education in South Africa today remain staggering.