The Wheels of the Bus:  Bringing the World to the Learner

“At Du Toitskloof, we understand that to develop a sustainable local wine industry, it is essential for our workers to thrive,” says Du Toitskloof Winery CEO, Marius Louw.

This winery in the Breedekloof Valley of South Africa was the first to obtain Fairtrade accreditation in 2005 and to date it is involved in the largest Fairtrade social responsibility project in the world.

More than 1600 workers and their families, on 22 member farms, benefit from a whole host of programmes designed to uplift and educate both them and their children.

Functional literacy continues to be a problem in South Africa where the national budget cannot stretch far enough to reach burgeoning rural classrooms. Du Toitskloof has an extensive education programme that includes crèche facilities for babies from 3 months of age, foundation phase teaching, computer literacy programmes, after-care, sport and so much more. 

But one of their most successful projects has to be their ‘Library Bus’. 

Cycling through the farmlands, Marius noticed children walking home from school without even a suitcase, let alone homework books. He realised that they therefore had a limited opportunity to develop their literacy skills but also to find out more about the world outside the valley. So he initiated a project to help set up a bus that would travel from school to school taking a library and laptops to the learners.

Today this Library Bus spends one day every fortnight at eight schools and each class, from Grade R to Grade 7, gets a chance to visit the bus. Once inside the colourful modern ‘classroom’ learners are allowed to take out books to read at home, and engage in maths and language programmes on the 20 laptops installed there. In the afternoons, the high school children can access the wifi to complete their projects.

Anneline Syfers is the teacher in charge of the bus. She grew up on a farm in the Breedekloof and started working in one of the Day Care Centres. From there she took on the management of a Day Care Centre and then, because she had a natural aptitude for technology, she took over the computer centre at the primary school. So when the Library Bus was launched, she was the obvious choice to run it. With Educare Training to level 5 and several computer courses under her belt, she was amply equipped to manage this project.

“I want to develop a love of reading amongst the children,” she says. “I want each one of them to become something one day. When they are grown up they must think back, remember the bus and realise that what we did here, helped them become who they are.”

The Library Bus aims to supplement what is happening in the classroom. Through their computer programmes, Anneline is able to track each child’s progress, giving extra attention to those falling behind, and stimulating the brighter children with programmes to broaden their skills.

The bus doesn’t only serve the Du Toitskloof Winery community, it visits the seven other schools in the area too. “The workers felt that they were being blessed to be a blessing, so they were happy to share their resources with the wider community,” explains Louw.

“Our aim is not only to make a difference right now,” continues Marius, “but to create a legacy that will continue to grow and develop in the future. Over the last 12 years, the winery has seen 14 students progress to tertiary institutions. But in 2017 alone, there were 11 students at colleges and universities across the Cape Winelands. Some of them will come back home and work on the farm, but others will leave and make an impact in the wider community in their chosen career and that’s good; that is also part of our legacy.”

-Julia Moore