The Earthrise Trust took transfer of the Rustlers Valley Farm in December 2013. Over the past 15 months we have worked with the local community to build a new future for the farm. This involves reconstructing the built environment, creating a small holder farming model, build a rural development partnership with the Village Committee and creating a safe space for social innovation.
Since the sale the trust has been building a long term development partnership, called the Rustlers Valley Development Initiative, co-created with the Naledi Village Committee and geared towards a vision of building a vibrant local economy, sustainable rural livelihoods and community well-being. A copy of this document is available. We are in the process of updating it to capture the work in progress, celebrate the achievements and what we will do in the coming year.
An important element of this partnership is a focus on schooling. Situated on the farm is Naledi Village, comprising residents of approximately 100 people and a school, Franshoek Primary, built by the community 10 years ago after they were moved from a neighbouring farm. The school caters for 33 children from Naledi and 2 other surrounding villages (on the Franshoek and Nebo farms) attending classes from grades 1 to 6. . The school is headed by a most wonderful, energetic and dedicated teacher, Ms Justine Ratudumo, who has been there for just under two decades and is currently alone. The per capita annual budget of approximately R3000 allocated by the state means there is no money available for much needed for repairs, maintenance and to promote quality teaching and learning. She is supported by three excellent women elected by parents to serve on the School Governing Body (SGB).
In March 2014, the trust in consultation with the teacher, the SGB, the Naledi Village Committee has created a special fund to finance a set of agreed priority projects. Copies of all income and expenditure vouchers and receipts are kept by the Earthrise accountant and the teacher for her records.
The initial upgrade started with relaying the shabby and unsafe foundations in the classrooms. Funds raised were used to purchase materials and the community provided labour at no cost. Further modest contributions by Earthrise, through the sale of books authored by one of our trustees and contributions from conference delegates have gone towards purchasing much needed items such as whiteboards, desks and stationery cupboards. The trust has been working with a wonderful team of benefactors who are interested in contributing both in cash and in kind towards the development initiative. Their contributions will go towards funding for a teaching assistant, repairs to the thatch roof, improved sanitation, a school garden, fencing, establishing a grade R class and playground equipment. We are currently working on developing a job specification for a person to help Mme Justine with teaching.
Recently, as a result of the new activities initiated by the trust with community participation, the community needed a day care centre to look after the toddlers whilst the parents were working. The community then started a small day care centre/crèche. The crèche caters for 17 children and is totally run on fees paid by the parents to provide meals and pay the teacher who comes from the village. This hopefully will give the toddlers and non-school going children a head start before their formal schooling begins. Inspired by this initiative and to supplement the income, the trust in consultation with stakeholders, agreed to incorporate the crèche into the Earthrise Trust School Fund. Together we have created a simple plan of action template outlining all the areas of need and in order of priority for the school and the crèche.
The aim is to promote quality schooling in the village under the goal of creating “safe sacred places’’ of quality learning for our children.
Thanks to a kind gesture by a staff member of the Zenex Foundation who nominated the school as one of the beneficiaies of their 20th anniversary celebration, the school will receive 30 "mypowa" solar banks with built in LED lamps. These will be used to replace the current use of candles by learners for reading and homework.