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School Support in rural South Africa (ED)

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

Although close to the popular tourist site of Addo Elephant Park, the town of Nomathamsanqa is one of the country's most deprived communities. The local school is at its heart, providing essential education despite minimal resources.

Skills required

We work closely with the local people who manage this project, and they have identified their primary volunteer needs.

The school's principal, Mr Thambo, has identified the following needs: 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
  • lesson planning and teaching methodologies - these are fundamental areas of modern education in which many teachers have received no training
  • Information Technology - whilst AV Bukani has computers, computer literacy among teachers cannot be taken as read
  • sports, arts and crafts practitioners are needed to work with the children to build confidence and enhance life-skills
  • principals are burdened with rampant bureaucracy - they have little training and even less support in appropriate administration

Main project details

A.V.Bukani primary school provides education for children from the age of 4 to13 - from Reception to Grade 7. Thirty two teachers care for nearly 1200 children. The principal, Mr Thambo, and his team are particularly keen to improve literacy and IT skills levels in the classroom, and to increase their knowledge of best practice teaching techniques.

Read further details of how the volunteer programme works with AV Bukani here


A.V.Bukani school is in a rural community about 40 miles outside Port Elizabeth, close to the Addo Elephant Park in the town of Nomathamsanqa. Originally the town was designed as a temporary residential area for the people who were moved from neighbouring farms until they were relocated to the former homelands. However the people resisted these moves. This community is one of the most disadvantaged communities in the Eastern Cape. Approximately 70% of the community inhabitants receive no income and as a result, parents are unable to pay even the minimal school fees or buy uniforms. The majority of parents work seasonally in the citrus fruit industry. The apartheid legacy remains - one of the greatest challenges is the growing gap between rich and poor. Despite this deprivation the sense of community is strong here. The principal, Mr Thambo, has made the school the centre of the community. The families tend the gardens and care for the school. Many of the children receive their major if not only meal of the day at school.

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.

Read a volunteer blog from at AV Bukani 2010 - inspirational!

"We tried to prepare ourselves for just about anything, but we could never imagine the warmth, enthusiasm, caring and outpouring of appreciation that we have received both from the school and the entire township. Once we established that we recognized we had a lot to learn from the school and community, as well as share with them, the relationship has been extremely positive. The teachers, as one teacher noted, "are hungry to learn how to help the students." There are few school resources -- students work with stubs of pencils and very limited paper -- but the human resources are valuable beyond measure. This is a caring and committed staff, with one of the best principals any of us have ever met. They welcomed the opportunity to learn new strategies for engaging their students and increase the learning." Volunteer Eileen

Volunteer opportunities in this rural school - 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 this education development project. 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.

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.

Alternative guest house accommodation is also available nearby - please ask us about this

Project costs

£1,313 for 4 weeks based on full-board home stay
Guideline sterling costs based on 18.00SAR to the GB£
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 wish to make further donations to this project CLICK HERE

Recommended reading

'No Time Like the Present' - Nadine Gordimer

A useful website about children in South Africa

check out slideshare   youtube  our blog  facebook for volunteer interviews & project news

2011 UN report - Youth in Africa

'Long Walk to Freedom' Nelson Mandela - (a must read for all)

Blog by volunteers at AV Bukani

App for translating all 11 South African languages - Downloads on all android apple smartphones to learn about the Xhosa click from Nelson, one of our local partners

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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