Despite the economic hardships brought on by Covid-19 and the limitations imposed by social distancing regulations, the Rally to Read is forging ahead to try and complete its plans for 2020 – but, is in desperate need of corporate support.
According to Statistics South Africa, more than 3-million South Africans remain illiterate. In KwaZulu-Natal alone, a little over 650 000 (25%) people have been grouped in this category. Stats SA defines literacy as “the ability to read and write in at least one language”.
For the past 23 years, Rally to Read has taken books and educational materials to under-funded rural schools with 175 actual rallies having run in that time.
Brand Pretorius, founder and Chairman of the National Rally to Read Steering Committee explains: “As South Africans, we are at our best when we confront challenges together. That’s what we have done at Rally to Read for the last 23 years. With your support, we can continue to do so for years to come, especially during these challenging times”.
It is a never-ending fight to provide a decent education to children in remote areas. These schools as under-resourced, many lack basic materials such as books, paper and stationery. In extreme cases, there are no desks, electricity or basic sanitation. Illiteracy is rife.
The average 14-year-old rural child has a reading age three years below that of his urban counterpart, which means there is little hope of mastering books in high school. The drop-out rate is terrifying.
The Rally to Read initiative, through complementary partnerships, facilitates a literacy programme fully aligned to the Department of Education’s goals.
Given that Covid-19 will be with us for months, maybe years, to come, the organisers have ruled out the traditional Rally to Read format where sponsors travel and socialise together and mingle with children and parents. Depending on the state of the pandemic, they hope to reinstate these in 2021.
The auto industry has enthusiastically supported the programme by providing 4×4 vehicles to enable the deliveries to some of most inaccessible places.
“That’s why the Rally to Read national organising committee is planning a ‘skeleton’ programme for the immediate future, to protect the progress made so far. Schools will still receive educational materials, including portable classroom libraries. Teachers will continue to enjoy training from the READ Educational Trust,” says Lizelle Langford, PR and Fundraising Manager for READ.
“The level of support, though, will depend on donors. Besides Mpumalanga, five rallies were scheduled for this year: in the Free State, Western Cape, Eastern Cape and two in KwaZulu-Natal. Shell SA, the host sponsor for one of the KZN events, around Pietermaritzburg, has guaranteed its continued support for its schools. Elsewhere, the fund-raising continues. Some sponsors have already contributed but we need more to reach our reduced targets.
“In every case, it is estimated what is required to keep the programme running on a smaller but practical scale, until it can return to normal. In the case of the Western Cape, R600 000 is required. For the others, it’s R350 000.”
To encourage sponsors, The Jonsson Foundation, Rally to Read’s lead sponsor and the charitable foundation of the Jonsson Workwear group, will match every donation up to an aggregate total of R500 000. That means that for every R1 000 a sponsor donates, Rally to Read will receive R2 000.
“This is an enormously generous gesture and one that I hope will persuade you to support us,” Pretorius says. “What is certain, is schools need our continued support. Suspending Rally to Read for a year is not an option. Education can’t be switched on and off like a tap, so we need the funds to keep it flowing – or at least trickling, I am asking for your support so we can give our children a brighter future, a future with hope, a future with work opportunities.
“Last year, it cost R36 000 to become a full rally sponsor, or R18 000 for a part sponsorship. We realise you may not have that money available this year (though we hope you will do your best to assist us) so we will gratefully accept whatever you offer.
“Instead of a traditional sponsorship, will you consider buying a single classroom box library? Or funding teacher training at one school for a year? Or training across one grade at a group of schools? These are all solutions to an immediate crisis. At Rally to Read, we are not ignoring longer-term challenges. None is more important than online learning. Digitalisation is transforming the way people learn, live and interact. If we don’t find a way to bring it to rural schools, it’s not just the education gap that will continue to widen but also the employability one.”
23 Years of Rallies in action
175 Rallies have taken place
614 835 Learners in the Rally to Read programme
925 Schools supported
14 721 Teachers in the Rally to Read programme.