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Schools Support (CDS)

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

Volunteers are needed to work in township primary schools - supporting local educators in teaching English, IT, arts and crafts, Maths, Science, life skills. The schools are located around Nelson Mandela Bay, Eastern Cape.

Skills required

We work closely with the local principals involved in this project, and they have identified their schools' primary volunteer needs. 

Help with any of the following topics will enable children to gain confidence in these areas:

  • literacy - talking, reading, writing in English
  • numeracy - maths can be fun, with anything from number games and songs to sudoku
  • measurements - size & scale, volume, area
  • arts & crafts - there is currently virtually no provision of time or materials
  • sport - there is often plenty of physical space but little in the way of equipment or timetable provision
  • IT - basic computer terminology and work such as using a keyboard and mouse, icons, cut & paste, layout, format, font
  • life skills - this part of the curriculum includes the arts, physical education and personal & social well-being

Main project details

This project currently works with 10 primary schools, formally providing education for children from the age of 4 to 13 - from Reception to Grade 7. However, many children have their school years interrupted for various socio-economic reasons, resulting in their falling behind their peers.

Children cannot graduate from one grade to the next without reaching required standards and 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.

There is no capacity among hard-pressed teachers with a busy timetable to offer small group teaching or one-to-one attention - children who fall behind the majority of their peers stand little chance of recouping lost learning without such attention. This is where you could come in -

Literacy - Xhosa is the native language in this area of South Africa. English is a second or third language for these children, and is introduced into school in Grade 3 (official ages 7-8). Activities which involve the use of English - story-telling and related activities, interesting and colourful books and stories, games and songs - these can encourage enjoyable learning.

Numeracy & measurements - gaining knowledge and building confidence through play are aspects of primary age schooling that we perhaps take for granted. Playing number games, singing counting songs, measurements applied to everyday life - these are all activities with are of real educational value for the children.

Science - this is a key topic on the school curriculum but schools have few resources or ideas for teaching practical Science.

Arts & crafts - recently introduced to some schools, these activities can be real fun. Small projects can also support the teachers' work in other areas - maths, geography, history can all take on added dimensions when arts and crafts interpret 'academic' subjects.

Sport - none of the schools have teachers specifically for sport. The school communities are keen to develop team sports and games to help with children's socialising skills, physical fitness, manual dexterity etc.

IT - the most basic use of computers is a virtual unknown for most children and many teachers. Few of the schools have enough computers for large groups to work at the same time. Learning how to create a simple word document, playing educational computer games, or exploring reference sites will add new dimensions to children's education.

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.

Read further details about how the School 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.

"I would say, to anyone thinking about volunteering in this school, that you will have a wonderful experience. You will find yourself in a place of much laughter, happiness, love and care - all mixed in with real poverty, hunger, deprivation. You will feel welcome; your presence will be appreciated out of all proportion to what you may think you are contributing, in a way which is very humbling; you will see and touch lives which will put our own comfortable and sophisticated existence in a very different perspective. Go with an open mind; expect the unexpected; be prepared to take responsibility for what you do with this opportunity." Volunteer 

Volunteer opportunities in any one of a cluster of township schools can involve child care, teaching skills, sports, craft, IT - and other experience and skills will also be valued. 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

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

From £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
11700SAR (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:
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
2011 UN report - Youth in Africa

Long Road to Freedom' - Nelson Mandela (a must read for all)  to learn about the Xhosa click from one of our local partners  - Nelson
a video interview with volunteer Yvonne
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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