“Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farmworkers can become the president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.” – Nelson Mandela
The state school system in the Eastern Cape of South Africa is suffering. Facilities are poorly equipped, teacher strikes are frequent and teacher resources and professional development are hard to come by.
The Get Ahead Project (GAP) schools offer hope as low-fee independent schools that meets the needs of children from townships surrounding Queenstown and Whittlesea in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.
Its beginnings date back to 1992, when a group of local parents, frustrated by unsuccessful attempts to enroll their children in the better English-speaking state schools, founded the GAP School. It has grown from a handful of students meeting in a garage, to a school that spans 3 campuses with over 1,400 students from Preschool to Grade 12.
The Leacock Foundation became involved with GAP in 2002, and has completed ten major facility upgrades and expansions to address the wait lists that exist for each grade level. In the past few years, the Leacock Foundation has focused its fundraising efforts on fully equipping all 3 GAP schools with up-to-date technology, including computer labs, eduboards, wifi, e-readers, tablets, and laptops for teachers. Moving into 2016, the Leacock Foundation will be funding teacher professional development, a STEAM education curriculum (Science, Technology, Engineering, Entrepreneurialism, Arts and Maths) and after-school leadership programming.
The GAP school is infused with a positive spirit, offering township families an affordable quality education. The language of instruction is English, although Xhosa is the first language for most students and their families. The school follows the South African national curriculum beyond which, children are taught life orientation, AIDS prevention and environmental awareness. The school operates with tuition paid by parents or guardians who make large sacrifices in order to cover school fees. Government subsidies can be sporadic and minimal. Its facilities are modest but cheerful, organized and safe; half of the students enrolled are girls and more than seventy learners are currently sponsored by friends of the Leacock Foundation.