Henley MBA Students Partner with Rally to Read CSI Initiative

Henley Business School Africa MBA students have partnered with Rally to Read to sponsor and join rally visits to Fouriesberg and Clarens in the Free State and Rustenburg in the Northwest in vehicles provided by Jeep.

Rally to Read takes volunteers and sponsors in 4x4s to deliver books to schools in rural areas. Teachers at these schools are also provided with a three-year development programme, run by the READ Educational Trust.

Rally to Read was launched in 1998 when the HSRC (Human Sciences Research Council) approached McCarthy to lend them a 4×4. A vehicle was required by the HSRC to reach some of the most remote rural schools in KwaZulu-Natal as part of a study of school resources.

On their return the researchers shared with McCarthy the various schools’ desperate lack of educational resources and as a result one of the most successful rural educational initiatives in the country was born. What was to be a once-off expedition quickly became a national project with many of South Africa’s top businesses becoming partners and sponsors. To date Rally to Read has helped more than 100 000 rural school children. All beneficiaries are 100% black.

“Almost all rural schools have one need in common – educational resources. It is this need that the Rally to Read meets. The Rally delivers hope to rural learners, their teachers and their parents for a better future,” says Jon Foster-Pedley, dean of Henley Business School Africa.

For the past 16 years sponsors, organisers and participants of the rally have visited the most remote and needy schools in rural areas to deliver books, teaching aids, science kits, sports equipment, educational toys and other material – all of which are taken for granted at urban schools. Convoys of off-road vehicles depart from main cities across the country and traverse the rural countryside. Sponsors are part of the process of delivering books to schools during October and November of each year.

Since inception, over R50-million has been spent on improving the quality of education at over 500 remote and rural schools. On most rallies, participants meet early Saturday morning, split into teams and each team delivers books to a group of schools. Rally to Read is set apart from other social investment programmes through the active involvement of its sponsors.

Visits to these primary schools reveal the enormous needs that exist within rural education:

  • Resources are limited
  • Books are almost non-existent
  • Teachers are among the least qualified in the country

Mr Foster-Pedley said Henley’s MBA students were struck by the raw potential of the young children and the realisation that their investment in the schools, together with that of other Rally partners, will enhance their future choices.

“The Rally to Read initiative is now part of Henley Africa’s MBAid programme, a Henley initiative that aims to ensure that all executives on our MBA programme do projects with NGOs. We have worked

with about 260 NGOs and have provided hundreds of millions of rands of free consultancy,” he says.

At the schools, Rally participants meet and interact with the learners and teachers who benefit from the books and subsequent professional development, which is provided for three years by the READ Educational Trust.

The rally to read objectives are to train all educators in the Balanced Language methodologies as required by CAPS and to provide a range of classroom resources to support the implementation of the methodologies introduced at training sessions. The aim is also to regularly monitor and coach educators and assess the impact of the project.

The project supplies basic reading materials for systematic reading programmes over the 3 years. These include home language material, English first additional material and independent readers.

The READ trainer visits each Rally teachers’ classroom regularly to support the teachers in the implementation of the programme objectives and with their teaching practice. During these visits the impact of the project on learners are assessed.

The reading skill level of the average 16-year-old child in a rural school lags up to seven years behind that of urban children. Without effective reading and writing skills, the likelihood of completing high school or tertiary education is as limited as the prospect of future work. Independent evaluations of the READ programme have shown that after a three-year READ intervention in a school, learners on average advance two years in reading skills, and four years in writing skills, compared to learners in other schools.

The initiative also assists with a professional development programme for School principals which aims to maximise the sustainability and impact of the literacy programme within individual schools. There is also a science development component which builds on the improved literacy skill levels. In addition, the delivery of stationery ensures that teachers have the tools to teach and the children have additional writing materials, calculators and the like.