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Schools Support (ED)

Location: South Africa
Project type: education support
Price from: £1,313 - details below

This programme supports hard-pressed teachers in township schools of Nelson Mandela Bay, Eastern Cape. Though desperately under-resourced, these teachers are working in schools where the pupil to staff ratio can be in excess of 50:1.

Skills required

We work closely with the local schools' principals, and they have identified their primary volunteer needs as follow:

  • basic literacy in English is essential - for nearly all of these children, school is their first exposure to English, and is at least their second language
  • quality educational materials are seldom available, and even if they are, schools struggle to organise and account for them
  • lesson planning and teaching methodologies - these are fundamental areas of modern education in which many teachers have received no training
  • Information Technology - whilst some schools have computers, computer literacy among teachers cannot be assumed
  • sports, arts and crafts practitioners are needed to help build children's confidence and enhance their life-skills
  • the nutritional needs of students can be addressed by programmes to establish food gardens
  • principals are burdened with rampant bureaucracy - they have little training and even less support in appropriate administration

Main project details

This project involves far more than teaching! The project currently involves 10 primary schools which formally provide education for children from the age of 4 to13 - from Reception to Grade 7. However, many children have their education interrupted for various socio-economic reasons - this results in classes where the ages of the children differ considerably from that of the official Grade. However, the majority of children are of the expected primary school age.

In post-apartheid South Africa, the education system is in a state of transition. Over-burdened teachers, whilst committed to change, struggle to adapt, and need support and training.

The schools involved in this project have been identified for their innovation and dynamism. Previous volunteers have observed that despite the deprivation, they are joyful places to work, where the vast majority of teachers are professional and committed, and the children are eager to learn.

"I find it so hard to put into words what this means to me. I really enjoyed going back to somewhere familiar. Their amazing warmth and friendliness makes me feel I have a second place on this earth that I belong." Returning volunteer

Read more about how the Schools Support Volunteer programme works here


Port Elizabeth is not only an attractive tourist city, it is also a fantastic example of the new emerging South Africa. The ANC started its struggle against apartheid here and the city was the first in South Africa to accept a black mayor. Port Elizabeth and its surrounding area is being renamed `Nelson Mandela Bay' to reflect these strong local links.

While South Africa is becoming one of the power houses of Africa, the apartheid legacy remains - one of the greatest challenges is the growing gap between rich and poor.

Though many of the township teachers are qualified and professional, the education system is in a state of transition. At the end of apartheid, South Africa had 17 different education systems, with different levels for different 'races', different training institutions and expectations for different teachers. It was an education system designed to maintain social divisiveness, prevent critical thinking, and was based on rote learning and minimal participation. Then, in 1994, it all changed - to an education system premised on democratic human rights, outcomes based, critical thinking and experiential learning - but still with the very same teachers, who have had to adapt radically and the disparity in resources between formerly white and township schools still exists. The education system is in transition, constant flux, and teachers operate with varying levels of skill and confidence.

Coupled with the challenges inherent in this change are the problems of large classes, social deprivation, HIV/ Aids and the resultant breakdown of the family. Teachers do their best under the circumstances, but often just need a bit of support and encouragement - and this is where you can make a meaningful contribution.

Volunteer opportunities in a cluster of township schools in this education development project - whether you are a professional teacher or classroom assistant, retired or in work and looking for a career break, you can share your skills and experience with local teaching staff in a school. Other skills and experience will also be welcome - take a look at the list of needs, as identified by the project, near the top of this page. You can play your part in responsible volunteer work overseas.

"I was so glad I returned. I was heartened by the progress over two years and by Mr Sali (school principal) who is working hard towards having a school of excellence." Volunteer  after second volunteer placement at the same school 2 years earlier 

Minimum duration

4 weeks minimum

placements of longer duration are also welcomed - please ask

N.B. placements of 3 weeks have been arranged for volunteers with appropriate levels of skill and experience

Living Conditions

Homestay is available near the project, with a host family in a safe township community environment, with your own room. Breakfasts & evening meals with your hosts are included, as well as packed lunches and daily transport on work days.

Other accommodation, such as hotels or guesthouses, is also available - please ask.

Project costs

£1,313 for 4 weeks based on full board home stay
Guideline sterling costs based on 18.00 SAR to 1.00 GBP
Read about our costs and pricing policy here 

Watch an explanatory interview with programme director Sallie Grayson
Returning volunteers will receive a 25% reduction in project management and matching fees
Additional weeks are costed at a sliding reducing rate. Please ask for details.
Please note these costs are correct to the best of our knowledge but can only be confirmed at time of booking due to changes in transport and taxes outside our control. 
Included:  full board home stay, airport transfers, full local orientation, city tour, social event, local SIM card, project & placement liaison, daily transportation to the project. (Various other accommodation options, such as full time or weekend guesthouse stays or self catering accommodation can be arranged).
Your project donation will be used for the purchase of essential equipment for the school.
Previous donations have been used to purchase computer equipment and programmes, photocopiers, arts and crafts supplies, books, recording of school choir, science and maths equipment, PA system, visual aids and gardening equipment..
How your money is spent based on 4 weeks
11700 SAR (650 GBP) - direct costs in South Africa (transfers, accommodation, orientation, information packs etc)
4500 SAR (250 GBP) - project management, liaison & supervision in South Africa
2750 SAR (153 GBP) - project donation in South Africa
£260  - recruitment, matching & project development in UK
Not included: flights, insurance, visa costs, personal expenses such as phone calls, medical expenses, etc. 
If you or your friends and family would like to make further donations to:
Charles Duna School CLICK HERE

Emafini School CLICK HERE

Joe Slovo School CLICK HERE

W B Tshume School CLICK HERE

Mboniselo School CLICK HERE

Recommended reading

'No Time Like the Present' - Nadine Gordimer
A useful website for context about children in South Africa
Check out slideshare | youtube | our blog | facebook for volunteer interviews & project news
A video interview with volunteer teacher Michael
A slide presentation by volunteer Eileen
2011 UN report - Youth in Africa 
'Long Walk to Freedom' - Nelson Mandela (a must read for all) to learn about the Xhosa click from Nelson, one of our local partners
App for translating all 11 South African languages - Downloads on all android apple smartphones

Project gallery

Registered volunteers can learn about the local team for this project - LOG ON to learn more about this project and the local team we work with. Not registered yet? It's easy and free HERE!

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