Educating Beyond the School

Posted on July 19, 2013

Melanie Doucakis documents reaching out to communities in South Africa’s Eastern Cape.

Education in South Africa is one of the country’s biggest challenges. While it is defined as a ‘right afforded to all’ in our Constitution, it remains a journey filled with obstacles for the larger percentage of South African children. For those in the most isolated and rural parts of the country, simply reaching a source of learning is the first obstacle. Following this, children are faced with the challenge of learning in an environment that makes learning difficult: poorly resourced and severely overcrowded, to say the least.
While working in the Eastern Cape Province earlier this year — one of the country’s most isolated and impoverished areas — the reality for children in this part of the country was shown to me. As a nation, South Africa has got a long way to go in providing access to quality education for all children, and the gap that has existed for so many years has prevented much-needed knowledge from reaching isolated communities. These cut-off communities have very little access to information or systems that could assist them in addressing some of their challenges. In many instances, basic health and nutrition knowledge is lacking. A young person who wants to apply for a bursary for tertiary education may not have the first idea how, nor know anyone who could help them. A teenage mother may not know how to best
care for herself while pregnant nor help her newborn baby to remain healthy once born. In some of these communities, ignorance of laws which may not exist in the community’s traditional framework can lead to violations of basic human rights. Young girls, for example, are being married off at a young age, therefore being denied the education to which they have a right.

Melanie Doucakis
is a graduate of the University of South Africa.

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