Uplifting communities through education

by | Mar 5, 2021 | Article, Development and Transformation

Arniston is a world heritage site known for its awe-inspiring beauty – from the crystal blue ocean to the rolling dunes. Tourists travel far and wide to partake in its wonder, but beneath the surface lies a stark reality of economic hardship. To address the social issues around Arniston, the Waenhuiskrans/Arniston Community Development Trust (WACDT) was established in 2004. The trust aims to assist students with completing their studies, says trust administrator Moija van Zyl. At first only three students applied, but this number has increased to an average of 40 students per year. Only students or prospective students from Arniston may apply, and the only requirement is admittance to a university or recognised educational and training institution. To date, the trust has assisted more than 50 students with bursaries towards tertiary qualifications.

Partnering for change

In 2014, Arniston Bay Wines and Delhaize partnered to support the trust to uplift the community. To date, Stellenbosch Vineyards and Delhaize each contributed R930 900 generated from sales of Arniston Bay Wines. “The community is hardworking, resourceful and we support young people and adults who want to study further,” Moija says. These families appreciate the value of education, skills, and motivation, and the trust has a network to assist with financial hurdles.

A few students have already completed their medical or nursing degrees, and one currently works on the frontline against the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2016 Roxzanne Flynn completed her nursing degree and now works at the Bredasdorp Hospital. Roxzanne says she had no idea what 2020 had in store and the first Covid-19 case sent shockwaves through the nursing community. “As a nurse, who took an oath to care for those in need of medical assistance, it was the most traumatic experience,” she says. But the community spirit helped carry her. “I would like to thank my colleagues and all frontline workers who united in the fight against this enemy of our people.”

Long-term vision

Roxzanne says the trust provided the community with more opportunities for tertiary education. Ten years ago, the number of learners who continued with tertiary education in Waenhuiskrans was at the lower end of the spectrum compared to other communities. Today, it’s higher than the average for rural towns in the province.

Since 2004, the trust has allocated nearly R6 million to students, additional bursaries, and provided loans totalling more than R600 000. In addition, the trust supports Waenhuiskrans Primary School, the Fisherman’s Union, Fish House Community Centre, has published three books about the town, and established an archive for the community.

Moija says the trust measures its growth and success against the criteria set out by the World Bank index and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evolution Index. Both indices suggest educational support is crucial. “If we work according to ticking boxes, the bursary programme will fade away, our funding would dry up, and we would not have a 95% success rate,” she says. “If an organisation wants to be involved in education, long-term planning is the most sustainable way to work.”

She adds that education is an excellent investment in the future of South Africans and interaction between the community and wine farms will expose the community to opportunities in the industry. “Initiatives where the wine industry supports education will introduce the wine farm and industry to the next generation of researchers, winemakers, designers, and viticulturists,” she says.

Importance of education  

“The trust and the community can break the chain of economic hardship by providing the necessary support so desperately needed,” says Roxzanne. Despite financial, social, and medical obstacles associated with the pandemic, all students completed their 2020 academic year, adds Moija. “This is a testament to the hard work and motivation of the learners and their families.”

Roxzanne says the trust played a crucial role in her studies and even though its main purpose is financial support, there was genuine concern and interest from the beginning. “The members of the trust also encouraged me to complete my post-grad studies and although it was overwhelming, their encouragement and support made what seemed impossible a life-changing success.”

Roxzanne encourages the matriculants of 2020 to pursue their tertiary education with vigour and determination. “Your goals and dreams might seem impossible but the past year has taught you otherwise.” Tertiary education is daunting, but you don’t have to endure this journey on your own, she says. “There are bursaries and institutions like the Arniston Trust that are there to help. All you need to do is ask.”

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