• Young People Have a Right to their Future

    OneVoice South Africa (OVSA), a dynamic NGO partnering with young people on HIV and TBprevention, continues to reach young people (13-19 years) and helping them to take action in their own lives and communities.

    Since its inception in 2009, OVSA has taken the strong view that young people’s opinions need to be recognised, and incorporated in interventions that directly impact on their lives.

    To date, OVSA’s Schools Programme, consisting of a series of 14 in-depth workshops addressing critical health issues - has been welcomed by learners in 15 schools across KwaZulu-Natal. Developed in support of the Department of Education’s Life Orientation Curriculum and the national response to HIV/TB - the workshop content promotes learner understanding and discussion of HIV/AIDS, TB, sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender and human rights issues. In particular, it provides learners with a good understanding of sexual and reproductive health and rights, basic HIV and TB science, their rights and how to exercise them, as well as other sexual and reproductive health and rights issues.

    The programme also engages learners on addressing stigma, clears up myths and misinformation about HIV/AIDS, and TB, and teaches a number of life skills. The content includes provision for some creative reading, writing and speaking skills - and are also based on skills, knowledge and values development of learners. Correct information is known to increase confidence and empowers young people to assert their rights to dignity, respect and good healthy practices. The Schools Programme workshops are supported with contextualised, age-appropriate and gender and culturally-sensitive learner and facilitator materials. Content is updated annually, and has been developed with the help of educational experts, OVSA staff, role players and stakeholders and the learners themselves. Specifically, the OVSA Facilitator Manual and Learner Notebook remain in line with national guidelines, as well as what is experienced on the ground. Guidelines are also provided to OVSA Facilitators, who implement the programme - as well as learner assessment activities.

    Concurrently, OVSA, in collaboration with the South African Medical Research Council are receiving a small grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), managed by the University Research Co., LLC. This TB prevention and early detection project is another intervention which provides for critical thinking and decision-making.

    Ultimately, OVSA and its partners, will continue to support young people to make better choices about critical health, sexuality and sex, as well as human rights issues; choices that can change their futures for the better.

    For more information e-mail to:

    For more about OneVoice South Africa, refer to

    To view other NGO press releases, refer to

    Date published: 
    OneVoice South Africa
  • LEAP Science and Maths Schools: Fundraiser / Donor Relationship Manager

    LEAP Science and Maths School
    Please note: this opportunity closing date has passed and may not be available any more.
    Opportunity closing date: 
    Monday, May 21, 2012
    Opportunity type: 
    LEAP Science and Maths Schools is a collection of six no fee, independent high schools serving students living in townships in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Jane Furse. LEAP aims to equip these young people with the academic and emotional skills to go ‘to, through and beyond’ their tertiary studies, notwithstanding the poverty-affected circumstances of their lives. LEAP has achieved extraordinary success in its relatively short history with a 94% average Grade 12 pass rate with 74% of our matriculants engaged in tertiary studies.

    LEAP Science and Maths Schools seeks to appoint a Fundraiser/Donor Relationship Manager, based in Cape Town or Johannesburg.

    The person will be responsible for securing new funding partnerships for LEAP and maintaining and growing these partnerships into long-term, sustainable partners. The role includes all elements of building these relationships from initial prospect contact to report writing. This role will also include event management.

    This is an Employment Equity (EE) and Affirmative Action (AA) position.

    • Experience working for a grant making organisation or as a fundraiser is essential (state the amount of money that you raised per year in your current or previous position);
    • Event management experience (highlight this in your motivational letter);
    • Thorough understanding of the funding environment in South Africa;
    • Excellent communication skills, including good English writing skills;
    • Experienced in working with Microsoft Office;
    • Strong organisational skills with the ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously;
    • Attention to detail;
    • High energy levels;
    • Willingness to travel nationally;
    • Ability to work in a multi-cultural environment;
    • commitment to excellence and working for change in the South African education system;
    • Strong sense of social responsibility with a track record in community engagement;
    • Understanding of the constraints of working for a nonprofit organisation and ability to be resourceful within these constraints;
    • Valid driver’s licence and own car.
    Only candidates meeting South Africa’s EE/AA requirements will be considered.

    Starting date: As soon as possible.

    To apply, submit a CV and motivation letter with ‘Fundraiser and Donor Relationship Manager Application’ in the subject line to

    Please quote the source of this advertisement in your application - NGO Pulse Portal.

    LEAP Science and Maths Schools reserves the right not to proceed with an appointment.

    Failure to meet the minimum requirements will automatically disqualify an applicant.

    An application does not entitle an applicant to an interview.

    Only successful applicants will be contacted.

    For more about the LEAP Science and Maths Schools, refer to

    For other vacancies in the NGO sector, refer to


    Secure your place in the 25th anniversary edition of the Prodder NGO Directory which will be released on 24 October 2012. Refer to for more information.
  • Unemployed School Leavers May Turn to Crime - NGO

    Child rights group, Molo Songololo, has warned that school leavers who fail to find jobs are at risk of turning to crime or substance abuse.

    Molo Songololo director, Patrick Solomons, says that there is an urgent need for schools to better prepare matriculants, and provide them with more information.

    Solomons further states that jobs are hard to find and school leavers can become demotivated and ultimately dysfunctional.

    To read the article titled, “Unemployed school leavers may turn to crime – NGO,” click here.
    Eye Witness News
  • Unlawful Attacks on Education Rights in Motala Heights

    Today people are celebrating the matric results across the country. Here in Motala Heights, as in many poor communities around the country, we are planning our resistance to the illegal exclusion of poor children from our country's schools. Every year the first campaign on the Abahlali baseMjondolo calendar is the struggle to keep our children in school and to have them respected in school.

    Here in Motala Heights the situation is really bad at the Motala Heights School. The school is blatantly acting against the law and blatantly discriminating against the poor kids and actively denying them their right to education.

    Sometimes people fill out the fee exemption forms and they are just ignored. Sometimes the school secretary just refuses to give parents the fee exemption forms and shouts at them and ill treats them when they request the forms. This secretary acts like the school belongs to her. If you haven't got money you are nothing to her. She is like a big closed door to the poor people.

    Last year the school refused to release the reports of the kids whose parents couldn't pay the fees. This is illegal. They also said that they will put the debt owed to the Motala Heights School, which ends in grade 9, on the transfer cards that kids need go on to other High Schools. The secretary actually told one parent that this is “to make the parent and child have a bad reputation in the new school.”

    When the new year comes people are told to re-register their children and the secretary tells the poor parents that they can't register their children because they owe money. A deposit of R500 is charged to re-register each child.

    The secretary blocks the poor parents from access to the headmaster.

    The principal even says that people who are getting the Child Support Grant, which is supposed to be for food for their children, must give the grant to the school. What does he think these children will eat? Does he think that a child can study with the pain and weakness of hunger?

    Letters have been sent to parents that owe money for school fees. These parents have been handed over to Protea Credit Control and this company is threatening to take them to court and to seize their few possessions against their debt.

    After interventions from our movement, with support from Dr. Ivor Baatjies, the school agreed to release the reports. With a lot of effort we can win these struggles each year, just as we can win struggles against evictions, but we should not have to struggle to defend our basic rights that are guaranteed to us in law.

    We do not pay school fees becomes we have no money. Some children are going to school with nothing in the stomach. Sometimes the only income in the family comes from a father who is pushing the trolleys for the richer people at the shops. The women who are washing for richer people are earning R20 a day. The women who are working in factories are earning R250 a week. This is not even enough to pay for water and electricity. We are so much in struggle just to survive that cannot pay school fees.

    Kids from very poor homes are dropping out of school because they are being insulted because their parents can't pay their fees. They are called out and embarrassed in assembly. They are made to stand on chairs in class.

    Some kids are coming from abusive homes. School should be a sanctuary for these children but they are being screamed at in school because their parents are poor. They are ill treated at home and in school. Often this bad treatment pushes our kids out of school. When our children are forced out of school they start to be with the wrong people and to do wrong things. They see no future for themselves and they are angry. They get mixed up in drugs and crime. They fall pregnant.

    Our kids also count. All kids deserve to see a future.

    Most of the poor kids that survive the Motala Heights School go on to Wyebank Secondary School. At this school the process around fee exemptions is handled fairly. The problem with this school is the transport. The bus often comes late and the driver is reckless. When the bus comes late our children are locked out of the school for being late although it is not their fault. This is victimization of our children. There is also discrimination against our children from some of the Wyebank residents. In 2009 they even stoned the bus bringing children from Motala Heights to Wyebank.

    There are serious problems at the Nilgerie Secondary School in Marianhill. Kids are bringing weapons to school, even axes. Something needs to be done about this and very urgently.

    The Motala Heights School needs to be extended all the way to matric. When we asked for this in the past we were told that there was no space to extend the school. In fact there is lots of space. It is owned by Mr. Walker and it is called Tanglewood Farm. A small section of this land needs to be expropriated so that the school can be extended. The interests of one land owner cannot come before the interests of a whole community. This is obvious.

    We do what we can to look after the children in our community. This year, with the support of the Pinetown Minister's Fellowship, we organised a wonderful Christmas Party for all the kids of Motala Heights with a Mother Christmas and a toy for every child (educational and fun toys - no toy guns or knives or soldiers). The money that was left over from the party will go to buying school stationery for the poorest kids. But we need a lot more support. Their should be a full time social worker for this community.

    Our demands are:

    1. All intimidation of poor children and their parents by the Motala Heights School must stop immediately.
    2. All attempts to deny parents access to fee exemption forms, or to unfairly deny applications for fee exemption without any discussion or recourse, must stop.
    3. When our children go back to school on 19 January 2011 no child should be excluded because their parents are poor.
    4. A small section of Tanglewood Farm needs to be expropriated so that the Motala Heights School can be extended.
    5. A full time social worker needs to be appointed for this community to look out for the kids and the old people here.

    Every parent has a right to know what is going on at their kid's school, to have their kids treated fairly and to participate equally in the governing of the school. These rights are not just rights for the rich parents. They are rights for all parents. If these rights are not respected by the Motala Heights School we will take them to court and we will march on the school.

    Mr. Shezi in the Education Department has always been very helpful to us. But it is very difficult for poor people to access the Department. Telephone calls and taxi fares are paid in money and we don't have money. Dr. Baatjes has contacted the Education Department for us and they have promised to look into things at this school and to report back to us.

    As a movement we want to extend our deep thanks to Dr. Ivor Baatjies, who formerly worked with the Education Rights Project and the Paulo Freire Institute is now at the Centre for Education Rights and Transformation at the University of Johannesburg for his years of support for our struggle for equal education rights for all children in Motala Heights. Dr. Baatjies has informed us that CERT will monitoring the Motala Heights School closely this year, especially when it comes to admitting children at the beginning of the new term. Dr. Baatjies is available to explain the law around education rights in South Africa and why the actions of the Motala Heights School are in gross violation of the law and basic education rights. He can be contacted on 0832346700.

    Ricky Govender Threatens More Evictions

    The notorious gangster landlord Ricky Govender has verbally threatened 42 poor families with eviction. He is claiming that he has sold the land that they are leasing and have built their own self built tin shacks to the municipality. He has said that he will deliver the eviction notices on the 15th of January.

    Since 2007 we have successfully stopped all his evictions and we will stop these evictions too. Some people have lived on this land for as long as 35 or 45 years.

    For further information and comment please contact:

    Shamita Naidoo: 0743157962
    David Pillay: 084 626 7078
    Louisa Motha: 078 072 0499
    Date published: 
    Abahlali baseMjondolo
  • Adult Basic Education for Social Change

    Why is a large broad-based adult basic education programme not part of government’s ‘New Growth Path’? Are we content to merely provide pensions and grants to millions of adult South Africans who should be learning productive skills, entrepreneurship, basic health – and also about democracy?

    We are marginalising our people and keeping them dependent while we focus on those who have better education. And while we ignore the poorly educated, a seasoned adult-education NGO, Project Literacy, is retrenching skilled staff: as reported last month, this is because grants from the National Skills Fund have been suspended while government completes the formalities surrounding its new skills qualifcations.

    Adult basic education (ABE) can make dreams possible for thousands of adult South Africans who struggle daily for food and security. A strong South African ABE programme can offer education and training to help people make money, improve family health, share in community life, participate more in our democracy, take hold of their own human rights and extend these rights to others. It can help to build social justice and equity. 

    Take the story of a courageous rural literacy learner called Zanele, a member of an Operation Upgrade literacy class. She was the new wife in a polygamous family dominated by the first wife. In literacy lessons Zanele discovered that she had human rights and she questioned her role and status as a makoti (new bride, a newcomer to the family and a source of labour). She worried about HIV as well, after an alarming literacy discussion about how people get infected.

    Zanele decided to free herself from the marriage and from the danger of HIV infection by her town-dwelling husband. To get this freedom, she needed to leave her husband’s homestead and make a living for herself. Her own family would not accept her return, for fear they would have to pay her lobola back to her husband. Zanele needed somewhere to live. She puzzled for weeks about finding a way out.

    During discussion in her Operation Upgrade literacy class about a nearby low-cost rural housing scheme, Zanele said, “I am going to get a house!” She did. She and her little daughter now live in a simple two-room house where she can lock the door at night, grow her own vegetables and keep her own livestock. She does not have to cook and wash clothes for two other women and their families any more.

    She had problems getting the house – completing the application form in English (with the help of her literacy educator), being threatened by the wives and the induna, and being beaten by her husband – but she managed in the end. She makes traditional Zulu wear to sell. “I have freedom!” she says.

    Zanele’s story is common in adult basic education work. An adult literacy programme should cover human rights, HIV and AIDS, and solve social and economic problems relevant to the learners. It should include family health, gender issues, workplace issues and a host of other topics.

    Is this adult basic education? Yes it is, if you link the teaching of reading and writing and counting to a range of topics of concern to the learners.

    Operation Upgrade, a NGO in KwaZulu-Natal of which I am part, has ‘literacy and adult basic education for social change’ as its mission. In an isolated and neglected rural area north of Hluhluwe, the adult basic education programme teaches adult learners to understand and live with HIV and AIDS, write and read in isiZulu and English, calculate with money and run small businesses, grow vegetables and make and sell small crafts, including leather goods. Human rights – and gender issues – come as strong topics in the classes, and the learners make their own theatre sketches about life.

    How is literacy linked to a development topic in an ABE programme? A skilled adult literacy educator will start a lesson with a discussion on a key topic. The educator must have knowledge to share about the topic, or use a resource person, such as a nurse or an agricultural extension worker. After the discussion the educator and the class do literacy work based on the topic. Every literacy lesson should have both development and literacy objectives. It’s the development objectives that create full adult basic education.

    The premise underlying the Operation Upgrade programme is that combining adult literacy or adult basic education with HIV and AIDS education, family health education, livelihood development, food security support and human rights will help to break the cycle of poverty, poor family health and disease, and isolation – a cycle that makes up so much of the condition of disadvantaged adults in South Africa today. It is a model of integrated development education and support, using the literacy class as the vehicle for organising people and making inputs. 

    The content of the classes is negotiated with learners because the literacy experience must meet their needs. Learner needs for information or exposure to issues deepen as they go through literacy classes, developing greater critical consciousness about life in their community.

    We believe that literacy learning per se is not enough for learners: they are seeking ways to change their lives. It is wrong to lead learners to believe that literacy alone will improve their circumstances: a broad-based adult basic education programme is needed that reflects social and economic issues. Such a programme must change with changes in its social context.  Who would have thought to include HIV and AIDS in adult basic education 25 years ago?

    Huge funding is being spent on ABET (adult basic education and training) programmes in South Africa with little thought about the value of this education for adults or - which is worse – whether adults really want pieces of a school-equivalency paper.

    A look at the enrolment and examination numbers for Abet Level 4 across the provinces shows little interest in this learning. Some young people hope for ABET qualifications as alternatives to matric, but the numbers are small. And where are the mature adults studying at this level? Not many of those, either. Adult South Africans have real problems right now. They cannot wait for future generations to provide solutions.

    Nobody is decrying the efforts made by the various state ABET units to deliver a good education product – but the vision of adult basic education in national policy is very different from the ‘replacement schooling’ curriculum they offer. The ABET budgets are low and the programme gets little political support.

    The big question – How can adult basic education help people in South Africa to narrow the poverty gap? – has not yet been asked at a national level. Today’s adults are asking what is being done to improve their lives here and now.

    And the ‘T’ for training in ABET? No budget for low-level skills training in the ABET classes – the further education and training colleges are touted as the T component but they are largely inaccessible and their courses do not get people jobs ….. the truth is, the jobs are not there. 

    We are firmly convinced that employment for all will be the answer to poverty. More than half of South Africa’s working-age population are either unemployed or not economically active. What about training for adults for self-employment and self-reliance? Are we serious about being a developmental state?

    And then we spend billions on a nice-to-have mass adult literacy campaign, Masifundisane or Kha ri Gude, where adult learners in class for six months (part-time) learn to write in home their languages, speak and read a little English and do a little addition. It’s a quick dip in reading and writing. So what? “If you don’t use it you lose it”: there will be serious relapse from any minimum level of literacy reached in the mass campaign. When are we going to deliver useful education and training for adults?

    We have seen enough of ‘dumped’ classes after six months in Kha Ri Gude, classes of learners who cry, “What’s next for us? We want to learn projects!” Development NGOs, underfunded, are trying to cope with this problem.

    It’s time we stopped expecting traditional education to be the saviour of our disadvantaged adults. Plain literacy and school equivalency education will not put bread on the table tomorrow, nor will they teach a mother how to purify water from a river before her children drink.

    Let’s be honest. You and I communicate through literacy, so that’s what we think all people should have, but illiterate adults have more pressing needs. And the programmes offered to them depend on voluntary attendance, so we need to meet their needs, not design learning for them to meet alien or unrelated needs.

    The old role of the teacher-bestowing-knowledge merely serves to reinforce the status quo. There’s a vast, undereducated adult population which is not part of the economy and which has no involvement in developing our society. Is this what South Africa wants?

    We have the opportunity now to give adult learners an education that helps them develop a critical perspective on how they live and shows them ways to change their lives. Functional and problem-solving adult basic education and literacy is the best available means of developing our nation.

    - Pat Dean is the director of Operation Upgrade of South Africa, an NGO providing adult basic education with literacy. This article was first published in the Mail & Guardian and is republished here with the permission of the author.
    Pat Dean
  • Department Supports Transgendered Pupil

    The Eastern Cape department of education says school children must be supported in their right to a preferred sexual orientation.

    The department’s superintendent general, Modidima Mannya, points out that, "There is an urgent need to advance a transformation agenda that addresses all matters of common social and cultural understanding.”

    The comments by Mannya, who argues that the Constitution is the supreme guiding document, follows a newspaper report of a transgender pupil at Cambridge High School in East London, who was forced to leave the school because he was not allowed to wear trousers.

    To read the article titled, “Support for transgender pupil,” click here.
  • Mark Me Up

    Mark me up
    because I am
    the special one
    caught in the cross-fire

    I am
    a mark-up
    education a commodity

    Mark me up
    me and my mates
    (is my English excused)

    Mark me up
    as I suffered
    something cognitive
    in my growth path

    Mark me up
    I can exit school early
    no maths and science
    (who can society count on)

    Mark me up
    bias your marking
    make me score

    (with perpetualwelfare
    perpetually developmental
    and structurally adjusting
    inmy little ghetto)

    Mark me once more
    brand me
    make me special

    SADTU KwaZulu-Natal asks for 'biased marking', on early evening SAFM Radio, World AIDS Day, December 1 2010.

    -    David Kapp,
  • A Culture in Crisis – Reading in Post-Apartheid South Africa

    It is now commonly accepted that there is a deep crisis regarding the ‘culture of reading” in South Africa. Only a very small section of the public reads and buys books, there is a virtual collapse of library services, and publishing in black languages continues to struggle 16 years after the end of apartheid.

    The indices of this crisis are equally well-known:
    • Only a very small section of the public reads and buys books – both for leisure (fiction) and self-education or self-advancement (non-fiction)
    • Public libraries have been in long-term decline, and school libraries are just about non-existent
    • Although a large part of young South Africans go through the schooling system, it is also commonly accepted that their reading and numeracy skills are very low – lagging behind that of their counterparts in the sub-region 
    Sources of the crisis

    In many discussions of the crisis of the ‘culture of reading’ one key explanatory factor stands out: the legacy of apartheid. Apartheid, quite rightly, is an important factor in accounting for the state of literature in black languages, in the literacy levels among the adult population of South Africa, and indeed in the class structure that still sees the majority of South Africans trapped in poverty. But it has been 16 years after the end of official apartheid and smaller countries in the South African Development Community (SADC) region, with much less resources, register better reading and numeracy skills than young people in South Africa. Cuba, with equally limited resources, was able to raise the standard of reading and wipe out illiteracy in a few years. So why does a crisis in the culture of reading persist so stubbornly 16 years after the end of apartheid?

    The GEAR

    Two other factors account for the persistence of this crisis.

    Firstly, the democratic government of the post-1994 period made a number of policy choices that have proved fatal for the development of a culture of reading. Basically, the fundamental policy choice made by the post-apartheid government was to choose a market-driven path to economic and social development in South Africa. This path was captured most dramatically by the adoption of the Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) policy in 1996, and the closure of the RDP office soon thereafter. GEAR, however, is not just an ‘economic’ policy: it is a holistic political, social and economic policy. Over the last 14-odd years, the consequences have been profound:
    • South Africa today is the most unequal society in the world. Markets reinforce, and do not overcome, inequality
    • Almost half the population lives below the poverty line, and about 40 percent of men and women of working age are unemployed. The majority of unemployed are youth, who are the natural target audience for a broad-based culture of reading
    • Starved of resources, the ‘social infrastructure of reading’ in many townships has been under severe stress and in most cases has virtually collapsed
    This ‘social infrastructure of reading’ refers to the quality of people’s general standard of living. This includes, among other items, libraries, schools, colleges, universities, book stores and spaces created for leisure. This includes well-resourced (with books and literacy promoting programmes) kindergartens during childhood, youth leisure and recreation centres, access to good lighting in the home (electricity) and adequate spacious housing. (For instance, an RDP house does not provide space for leisure.) A transport infrastructure that is extensive and cheap enough to encourage social interaction lies at the heart of a culture of reading. A transport infrastructure enables a township resident to attend a poetry reading, a book club, a literary festival in another part of the city or country, and so on.

    Given these conditions, it is no wonder that the majority of South African do not read, or cannot read. It is not difficult to see or to demonstrate the correlation between levels of inequality and a low culture of reading in a country. Countries with high levels of inequality have a low culture of reading, and vice versa: countries with a more equal society will show a higher culture of reading.

    Structure of Publishing

    The second factor that accounts for this crisis in the culture of reading is the structure of the publishing industry itself. In many debates on the culture of reading the publishing industry presents itself as the victim of this crisis. Of course, the publishing industry stands in a contradictory relationship to a culture of reading in any country. On the one hand, it has an interest in the expansion of the reading market, and the more people who read the more it is a potential beneficiary. On the other hand, as an industry driven by the profit motive, it can only accept the expansion of reading if this protects and expands the proverbial bottom line (or the profit margin). In South Africa this contradiction is an acute one, and the publishing industry shares this contradiction with the majority of capitalist industry.

    The publishing industry in South Africa is highly concentrated, with a small number of publishers (estimated at less than 20) accounting for the major part of the country’s book trade. Further, in the last few years, global companies and distributors have made significant inroads into the industry. This industry has remained profitable because of market concentration, since it focuses on a small and predominantly white middle class for its market. This has also reinforced a (high) price structure that generally excludes the majority of the population from being able to afford books. Indeed, over the last five years the tendency has been that price increases outstrip growth in volumes sold, indicating the general price indifference of the primary market for publishers in South Africa.

    The structure of the industry acts a barrier to the development of a broad culture of reading in South Africa.

    Firstly, the tendencies towards concentration are accompanied by a tendency towards risk aversion, and so book titles that do not promise high returns are excluded. The impact on local stories and new writers is a negative one, and in turn this has a negative impact on a broad-based culture of reading. Secondly, small and independent publishing is the lifeblood of a strong culture of reading, especially in a developing country such as South Africa. The tendencies towards concentration inherent in capitalist industry destroy small publishers without maintaining the appetite for risk that small publishers have. Thirdly, the tendency is for profit-maximising publishers to treat readers as ‘customers’, and not as citizens with a right to reading. These corporations only see the ‘culture of reading’ as a philanthropic act, and therefore do not engage in broad-based and sustained activism that is needed to transform reading cultures in South Africa. Fourthly, although private large publishers cannot play the role of transforming reading cultures, they oppose (whether actively or passively) affording a central role for the state in the transformation of reading cultures. Fifthly, the tendency to risk aversion in the publishing industry has meant that the book distribution network is largely concentrated in the white middle class areas, with no willingness or strategy to create a distribution network in working class areas.


    An analysis that deepens our understanding of the sources of the crisis in the culture of reading is vital if we are to make significant inroads into transforming and expanding reading cultures. It is not enough for us to continue to blame the legacy of apartheid. We need to explore and deepen our understanding, our critique of how social, economic and political policy options affect the development of a culture of reading. We need to develop a critique of the publishing industry itself in order to explore the kind of changes (in the industrial structure) we need to transform and broaden reading cultures.

    - Oupa Lehulere works at Khanya College and is member of the editorial collective. This article first appeared in the Khanya Journal 24. It is republished here with the permission of Khanya College, a NGO assisting various constituencies within working class and poor communities to respond to the challenges posed by the forces of economic and political globalisation.
    Oupa Lehulere
  • Are Men Really Better in Business than Women?

    The latest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor shows that in South Africa men are 1.6 times more likely to succeed as business owners than women.

    This shocking statistic is reported to be a particularly South African phenomenon. Amongst other things, it appears to be related to low levels in self-belief amongst women that they have the knowledge, skills and experience to start and succeed in business.

    As owner of a business that is dedicated to supporting the growth of entrepreneurs, and a single mother of three girls, the reasons for this situation (and more importantly the possible solutions) have special relevance.

    The problem of gender inequality and gender violence is well documented in our country – and this in itself is enough to reduce the self-confidence and self-belief of women. However, it is only when travelling outside the main centres that one sees the broader effects of this inequality – where girl children are pulled out of school at a young age to help around the house, and the prevailing attitude seems to be ‘why bother?’, as they will invariably marry young and/ or be pregnant by the age of 16 or 17.

    This is certainly not only a South African problem - I recall being shocked at the low levels of schooling amongst girl children in rural Zambia, where girls are removed from school and married off as young as 13! Of course part of this equation is the effect of culture, and cultures which entrench the concept of women as second class citizens incapable of independent thought should not be surprised when these same women fail as entrepreneurs.

    But its not just culture, nor education that holds women entrepreneurs back – and for this I am a case in point. I was raised as an equal in a family of boys, and am blessed with a post-graduate education - so from a self-belief, cultural and skills perspective I score tops. Yet despite this I have had to shoulder some burdens from which the average man is shielded.

    Firstly, I have no wife at home to care for the children, do the shopping, cleaning, laundry – I do that. Secondly and possibly most significant, I care for everyone else too – often both financially and emotionally – my mother, my staff, my community.

    I am by no means the outlier in this statistic – many, if not most women entrepreneurs are wives and mothers who run the business with one hand and the world with the other. The more rural the environment, the harder the task as rural women face challenges of water collection, firewood collection, atrocious health support systems, and often an oppressive cultural environment.

    My own experience in running enterprise development programmes assisting emerging entrepreneurs and community projects has provided some wonderfully inspiring examples of successful women in business, proving that with the appropriate opportunities women can certainly compete, if not surpass men as entrepreneurs.

    So within this reality, how can we help women rise to find independence, wealth, satisfaction and success as entrepreneurs?

    Firstly, women and girls need to be supported in the belief that they can be successful business leaders and entrepreneurs. This begins with exposure to success stories, and by seeing successful women at work in their communities. One such example of a true female role model is Eunice Mlotywa of Iliwa, based in Khayelitsha township in the Western Cape and a beneficiary of the Old Mutual Legends Programme. Eunice has over the years single-handedly built a highly successful sewing and beading business, and as her confidence and success increases she is branching out into other gaps in the market, opening a spaza shop and selling airtime and electricity to the community. In amongst all this, Eunice somehow finds the time to manage a feeding scheme for the aged, be a mentor to young girls in the community, run training workshops and be a mother herself. Hers is a story that needs to be told, to inspire other women to rise up and make an impact.

    Secondly girls need to be properly educated – all the way to matric and beyond. And education needs to include subjects such as mathematics, science, computer literacy, communications and public speaking, all vital components of a leadership and business role. I recall an experience in Mpumulanga in 2009, when providing business skills training to a group of rural women and discovering that almost half of them were functionally illiterate. One lady could hardly hold a pen to place a cross where her signature should go, and yet this woman was dynamic, highly intelligent and capable – on the face of it far more capable than her brother sitting on the opposite side of the room, who had been educated to matric level. Given the right education opportunities, who knows what she might achieve?

    Thirdly, women need to surround themselves with people who enable them to succeed as women, and as mothers and as business leaders! This means creating support networks, access to peer groups and mentors who support them in their goal to succeed and lead. One of my favourite success stories is the Inina Craft Cooperative from Eshowe near the Valley of a Thousand Hills, KwaZulu-Natal.

    This group of 150 Zulu mothers and grandmothers, most of whom are illiterate and have little or no formal education, have created a thriving business using the traditional weaving, beading and handcraft skills within their community. Inina is efficiently managed by suitably skilled local women, for the benefit of local women. In the true spirit of mothering, they even find the time and generosity to create and support an orphanage for HIV-affected children in the community.

    Lastly, women and girls need to learn to be more selfish. They need to know that not only is it okay to put themselves first, to ‘say no’, but that unless they do they will endlessly remain the supporter of someone else’s dreams, and never achieve their own. Women need to know that success comes to those who say ‘Yes!’ to opportunity, and step up to reach their dreams.

    So, while the data may show that men are 1.6 times more likely to be successful entrepreneurs in South Africa, perhaps the real measure of success should be not simply the number of men or women in business, but the impact that their success has? If we look closely at the wider benefits that women in business create – beyond income and job creation to family stability and community support – it may be just as accurate to say that successful female entrepreneurs offer 1.6 times more value to the economy and the country as a whole, than their male counterparts!

    - Catherine Wijnberg ( (MBA, M.Agr.Sc. BSc.Agric.(Hons) is recognised as a catalyst for her innovative thinking in the field of small business development. She is the Director of Fetola & Associates, a fast growing enterprise development agency that operates throughout Southern Africa, as well as the Fetola Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation made up of individuals with a desire to make an impact in sustainable community development.

    Qualified with a Masters degree in Agriculture and an MBA from Henley UK, Catherine has owned and operated small businesses in five different sectors, including agriculture, tourism & craft development.

    Contact: Catherine Wijnberg 084 668 4603 / 021 701 7466

    Catherine Wijnberg
  • Call to Reject Patriarchal Customs

    Minister for Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities, Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya, has called on South Africans to reject some traditional customs which she says are patriarchal and only serve to discriminate against women.

    Mayende-Sibiya says women should be empowered and their role in nation-building should be appreciated.

    Mayende-Sibiya says her department is in the process of ensuring that it gets a full staff complement in order to operate at full capacity and seriously deal with issues that affect women.

    To read the article titled, “South Africans urged to reject patriarchal customs,” click here.
    SABC News
Syndicate content