Thanks to the support of two ICMIF members, AVBOB Mutual Assurance Society and the Professional Provident Society (PPS), the small town of Calitzdorp in the Western Cape of South Africa has just rewritten history and changed the lives of hundreds of local children who previously walked to school over a long distance.
According to the University of Cape Town Children’s Institute, 67% of children in South Africa walk to school. The Institute found that “those who travel long distances to reach school may wake very early and risk arriving late or physically exhausted, affecting their ability to learn. Walking long distances to school may also lead to pupils being excluded from class or make it difficult to attend school regularly.”
Jan Scannell (also known as Jan Braai), a resident of Calitzdorp, and his friend Nic Alberts recognised this challenge and decided to get in touch with Qhubeka, a global charity that helps people move forward in life by providing them with bicycles in Africa. From as far back as 2005, Jan Braai combined his passion for braai (a South African term for a social gathering and barbeque) and cycling to unite and uplift the community through various cycle and braai initiatives like the Tour de Braai (a five day, cycling stage ride in South Africa).
In 2015, Jan and Ninety One (then Investec Asset Management, a former ICMIF Supporting Member) decided to combine efforts to help the town’s high school children get bicycles from Qhubeka. “Donating bicycles to high school children would not only reduce travel time but also improve academic outcomes, as children can give more time to schoolwork,” says Jan Braai. Since the large-scale contributions of bicycles began in 2019, the drop-out rate of pupils has declined by 7.5% to 0% in the final year. The final year pass rate has increased materially from 56.6% to 82.8%.
More recently, the success of the social initiative between Jan Braai and Ninety One grew to include two of South Africa’s largest mutual societies and ICMIF members, AVBOB Mutual Assurance Society and the Professional Provident Society (PPS) and, joining the partnership in 2022, one of South Africa’s leading financial services organisations, Alexforbes. All the organisations realise that the combined power of their social focus in areas of overlap will be stronger than any of their individual efforts.
In addition to the Qhubeka bicycle donation and the opening of the first library at Gamka-Oos Primary School, the partnership has grown to include Namene Solar, a company striving to eradicate fossil-fuelled lighting sources globally. Through the support of the partners, Namene Solar will provide the children attending the two primary schools in Calitzdorp (Gamka-Oos and Excelsior Primary) as well as the Calitzdorp High School with pico solar lights.
Pico solar systems are smaller and more affordable than traditional solar systems and have the power to provide useful amounts of electricity to charge lights and light up homes.
Calitzdorp High School has 30 to 40 boarding school pupils who have no access to electricity when they get home at the weekend. Around 90% of the 341 pupils at Gamka Oos Primary School have limited or no access to electricity at home. Providing pico solar lights improves conditions for home studying due to better lighting and vastly improved air quality, leading to a subsequent increase in study hours, learner health and grade improvements. Solar lights also provide a long-term savings benefit for households due to avoided expenditure on electricity, kerosene, candles and batteries.
This year the partnership again focused on bicycles and with the number of Qhubeka bicycles in Calitzdorp now reaching a critical mass, the contributions from this initiative will also allow for a permanent bicycle mechanic to be based in Calitzdorp (thus also creating employment opportunities). Through this social partnership, on 6 May 2022, Calitzdorp High School received 201 Qhubeka bicycles (bringing the total number of bicycles that this initiative has delivered in the region to over 600!) and 40 Namene Solar lights, and Gamka-Oos and Excelsior Primary School received more than 930 lights – one for every pupil.
The library at Gamka-Oos Primary School will be upgraded by The Bookery (an NGO focused on improving literacy). In addition to the above, three university students that attended Calitzdorp High School will receive laptops to further enhance their tertiary learning to become future professionals. Should a 2022 final year pupil from Calizdorp High School attend university in 2023, the PPS Foundation will consider assisting a student with top-up funding and a laptop. This would be subject to the qualifying criteria required.