Ingwavuma is an area of extremely high unemployment (60%). Most people rely on the mealie crops they grow for survival, but even this was not possible between 2001 and 2006 due to drought. Ingwavuma was declared a ‘Disaster area’ as a result.
HIV/AIDS has affected high proportions of the population, (an estimated 40.7%) leaving many children not only without parents, but with little or no extended family. Grandmothers often find themselves caring for several of their grandchildren. Finding the money for uniform, which is compulsory, is beyond the ability of many. School fees average R50 a year at most primary schools and R100 a year at High Schools (excluding the English medium school which is R150 per month). The Government has brought in an exemption scheme for those unable to pay, but as this would cover the majority of families in Ingwavuma, it would leave schools without sufficient funding to function, so in practice exemptions rarely happen in Ingwavuma at present. These levels of poverty result in many children either being kept at home or sent out to work as cowherds or domestic helpers.
Zisize’s aim in the six primary schools where we run feeding schemes, is to ensure that all children are given the means to attend school. We therefore provide uniform for children in extreme need, who would otherwise be unable to attend school.
Funds are contributed by many individuals and several organisations. Big donations have come from Adam and Victoria Freudenheim in 2004, who covered the uniform costs of 200 children and in 2005 an American Foundation included us in a massive uniform donation and provided two sets of uniform for 790 primary school children. Starfish Greathearts funded uniforms for 575 children in 2008.
We also provide uniform, shoes, school fees and stationery for High school children in need. Children have been sent home for not wearing school shoes or blue shirt on a white shirt day! If school fees are not paid by the end of the year, children are not given their reports and not allowed to progress to the next grade! We, along with many other NGO’s are trying to change this, but unlike others, we do still pay school fees in extremis, rather than have children put in this position.
In addition we support very bright children from poor homes to attend Nansindlela English medium High School via a sponsorship scheme, which covers the higher school fees, greater uniform requirements, (tracksuits, school caps, school t-shirts, trainers etc) transport to school and packed lunches for those who need them.
For those who are too small or sick to walk to school, we provide transport in our mini bus.