Education is the foundation of the future

The VW Community Trust was established in 1988 in the Eastern Cape as a result of negotiations between employees, trade union representatives, community leaders and the management of Volkswagen Group South Africa.

It aims to instill a culture of learning and empowerment among local communities.

When the trust celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2008, it announced an investment of about R8-million in upliftment initiatives in Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality and its outlying communities.

The main focus of the trust has been on education, with projects ranging from pre-school development to high school maths and science interventions, and from bursaries to teacher development.

Close to 80% of the more than R100-million the Volkswagen Group has invested in corporate social investment (CSI) initiatives has been spent on education and youth development.

“There is an old saying that if you want to plan for a year, grow crops. If you want to plan for a century, grow trees. But if you want to plan for the future, grow children,” says Nonkqubela Maliza, the group’s director of corporate and government affairs.

“If we want to achieve any level of progress in our communities, on every single level, we have to begin with education. It is the foundation of a functioning and self-sufficient society.”

The VW Community Trust recognises that communities need more educational resources and facilities as well as teachers, especially at a pre-school level, says Maliza.

Also, learners need to be provided with financial assistance for tertiary study.

Bursaries are provided with the long-term aim of encouraging the students to return to their communities and give back to create a cycle of success.

Over the past five years, about 500 bursary recipients have been studying towards qualifications in areas such as engineering, finance, commerce, computer studies and science.

The trust has not been limited to the Eastern Cape, but has expanded its footprint to other provinces with the Adopt-A-School project and support for early childhood development.

Adopt-A-School was launched in Gauteng at the beginning of the 2010 academic year. It supports the improvement of academic outcomes in maths, science and technical subjects in historically disadvantaged high schools in the province.

With an initial investment of R850 000 and a further R2-million recently, the programme has been the biggest benefactor of the VW Community Trust in Gauteng.

As its second flagship programme, the trust is supporting 30 early childhood development centres in KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State.

It assists in training educators and providing them with learning material. Also, support is provided in terms of capacity building for the management and governing bodies of the centres.

Annual funding of R1.7-million has been contributed to the early childhood development project.

In addition, 10 vehicles were supplied to early childhood development non-governmental organisations in seven provinces.

In partnership with the Centre for Early Childhood Development, the trust has identified 10 crèches in KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State to provide assistance in terms of governance and registration with the department of social services and accessing government subsidies, teacher training and educational equipment.

Recent figures show that 50 teachers have been trained and 880 children reached through the early childhood initiatives. And thanks to the 10 supplied vehicles, another 10 000 children have been helped through outreach activities.

Although this article has been made possible by the Mail & Guardian's advertisers, content and photographs were sourced independently by the M&G supplements editorial team. It forms part of a larger supplement.

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