Phetoho Education is a Gumboots Foundation project that was established in 2012. The name means “change/transformation through education” in Sesotho and has evolved from the three existing Alexandra Township projects: Leratong Pre-School, Sigiya Sonke Dance Group and Ratang Bana Orphan and Vulnerable Children Support.

The view of Gumboots is that education has emerged as the single most effective way of bringing about change in South Africa. Although all children have access to schooling in South Africa, the quality of education available to township children is much lower than that available to children in more affluent areas. Access to quality education is a means of closing the poverty gap.

The Phetoho project seeks to develop the potential of individual children in the hope that those benefiting can use their skills and personal resources later  in life and ultimately be agents for change in their own communities. Under the banner of Phetoho, Gumboots has supported children in a number of ways:

  • At a basic level each year we cover the cost of essential school uniforms, stationery and lunch boxes for the Sigya Sonke dancers and some of the Ratang Bana children. Without a uniform, children are unable to attend South African schools
  • Two orphaned sisters from Ratang Bana are also funded for their education needs by Phetoho
  • We have created learning centres at Ratang Bana and Leratong where children can do homework and projects. The Centres have computers, internet, reference books and a safe and secure environment in which to study
  • We initially funded four older Sigya Sonke dancers to attend the United Church School in Yeoville for the last two years of their schooling. This included funding their fees, uniforms, transport and lunch boxes. UCS is a small, privately run institution with good teaching and back-up support. All four young people passed their final matric exams and have gone on to do further studies and to find employment
  • We have continued to support these learners with their tertiary studies and are currently funding three of them in various ways
  • Given the achievements of the initial group of four, we decided to fund a further five younger children at UCS. Selected on the basis of their ability and motivation, our hope was that an early intervention would give them the best chance of success. There are currently two of the children at the school and they are doing very well
  • In 2015, Gumboots sponsored six young girls to attend the St Mary’s School Saturday Outreach Programme, which assists learners from Grade 10-12 with their studies, particularly maths and science. The matric rate pass of learners who have attended the programme is impressive. Of the young girls we funded, five completed their studies and achieved higher grades as a result of their attendance at the Saturday School
  • Our most recent project has been the Children’s Activity Club. With money raised through the Big Give in 2018, we are now funding a programme of outings and activities. The aim of this is to broaden children’s experiences by taking them out of the township to see places of learning and interest in and around Johannesburg. Over 400 children in total have been on these outings to date; they have benefited from visiting wildlife centres, outdoor adventure parks, science and children’s museums, the Constitutional Court, as well as craft and performing arts events

Sadly not all the children we have sponsored have succeeded in making the most of these opportunities. We have learnt that despite our carefully considered selection criteria, some of the children come from very disadvantaged homes that are not conducive to helping them learn – some have limited or no electricity and many live in cramped and overcrowded homes.

Having recently visited the Kliptown Youth Programme, we have learnt that the success of this project is largely due to the additional after-school support offered to their children. Not only do they provide mentoring and help with homework, but they also supply meals. Up to now Gumboots has not had the resources to fund this kind of daily help, but our future plan for the new Alex Arts and Education Centre will be to grow the support, using Kliptown project as a model.