Education on the move

The Pebbles Project, which is based in Stellenbosch, is an established and well-run NPO that aims to change and enrich the lives of children from disadvantaged backgrounds, with an emphasis on special educational needs, in the Western Cape farming community.

Launched at their 10th anniversary celebrations last year were two FACET mobile learning centres – the mobile library and the mobile computer lab. Graff Diamond’s FACET Foundation funded the two vehicles, which have been modified into a book, games and DVD library, and a computer lab with computers, printers and internet access, respectively.

                                                                                                                                       Caption: One of the two Facet Graff mobile learning centres.

The mobile library circulates between 10 farms, visiting each farm once a fortnight for the children to take out books, DVDs and board games.  Afrikaans, English and Xhosa books are available, both fiction and non-fiction. Up to 320 children borrow books on a regular basis and they are required to complete book reviews.  

“We have some parents/adults on the farms also registered to borrow books and DVDs to watch with their families over weekends,” commented special needs teacher Sophia Warner, the founder and director of Pebbles.

The mobile computer lab also visits 10 farms. The on-board teacher imparts computer skills to groups of children and they also use the internet to do research for their school projects. The computer lab is equipped with 10 laptops and tablets, so that the children learn a range of IT skills. The mobile computer lab reaches around 220 children per fortnight.

There are also exciting plans afoot to expand their FACET project, according to Sophia.

Over the mountains in the Breedekloof I recently had the privilege of attending the launch of the Du Toitskloof-Douglas Green Mobile Library. This is a joint initiative between two leading South African wine producers – Du Toitskloof Wines in Rawsonville, the largest Fairtrade winery in the world; and Douglas Green Wine, South Africa’s largest independent wine and spirit producer, based in Wellington.

A brand new Mercedes-Benz Axor truck fitted with a 15m trailer houses the educational material. Officially opened by Premier Helen Zille, the well-equipped mobile library will provide over 1 200 primary school children access to broad-based reading material and internet technology.

                                           Caption: From left, Tim Hutchinson, executive chairman of DGB, Premier Helen Zille and Marius Louw, CEO of Du Toitskloof Wines. Photo courtesy of Thys Lombard 

Some 5 000 new books were specially selected for schoolchildren between Grades 1 and 5. There are also 10 new computers with full internet access via an on-board router. High-tech software, developed by internationally renowned hand-eye co-ordination specialists Eye Gym, is included in the computer programmes. The mobile library will visit nine primary schools in the area and a full-time librarian will be on hand to assist the learners.

                                                                                                                   Caption: The Du Toitskloof-Douglas Green Mobile Library. Photo courtesy of Thys Lombard 

 “Without Douglas Green and DGB we would have had to wait a lot longer to get the wheels rolling,” said Marius Louw, CEO of Du Toitskloof Wines. “We greatly appreciate DGB’s assistance in making this happen. If I may say so, this joint initiative between two wine companies is but one example of the South African wine industry’s overall commitment to the people living in the communities from where our wine is sourced.”

Tim Hutchinson, Executive Chairman of DGB, sees this educational resource as a worthy extension to their Fairtrade brand, Fair to All: “The funds generated from sales of these wines will help pay operating expenses. Because Du Toitskloof Winery manages community projects like these extremely well, the sustainability of this project is assured. A project that adds value to the education of local farm workers children makes sense for all of us involved.”

– Lindsaye Mc Gregor