If there are two things you can count on with Rally To Read, they are effectiveness and continuity. In the 21 years since its launch in 1998, the rural schools project has changed the fortunes of more than 1,600 schools, 12,000 teachers and 250,000 children. Remarkably, it is still run by the same people who first made it a success. Brand Pretorius, who founded Rally To Read, remains chairman of its steering committee. Alongside him are most of the people who drove the programme forward in its formative years. And the Read Educational Trust remains at the heart of all its education efforts.
What does this tell you? That these people, and those who work with them, are passionate about Rally To Read.
And why not? Whoever coined the expression, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, could have had Rally To Read in mind. The concept is simple: revive failing rural primary schools that don’t get the support they need from education departments. There are thousands of them around South Africa. Most lack basic educational materials like books and stationery. Some don’t have desks, classrooms, electricity or even sanitation. No matter the state of neglect, the result is the same for their children: illiteracy and a bleak future.
That’s why, for the last 21 years, Rally To Read has been delivering books and teacher training to remote schools around SA. The results have been unprecedented. Instead of being forced to drop out of the educational system, unable to read, children have the opportunity to go on to high school and university. And it’s not just the children who benefit. Their families and communities are seeing benefits they once thought had passed them by.
As Pretorius puts it: “Rally To Read is South Africa’s leading and most sustainable literacy programme aimed at enhancing the quality of rural education.”
Why does Rally To Read work? This is not an anonymous, give-us-your-money programme. Sponsors meet the people they are helping. They learn first-hand the challenges they face. And they see for themselves the impact of their generosity.
It costs R36,000 to be a corporate sponsor of Rally To Read. Most of that buys portable classroom libraries containing books designed to encourage reading skills. These may be in any of SA’s various languages. The rest of the money pays for teacher training.
At no extra cost, sponsors and up to three guests join us for a weekend in far-flung corners of SA, delivering their libraries in person (an R18,000 option for private sponsors allows one guest). Convoys of offroad vehicles meet early Saturday to load up libraries and other educational equipment, before spending the day visiting at least two schools. Each school is supported for at least three years so sponsors who continue their support over that period see how reading skills improve each year.
Saturday night is spent in local accommodation, where organisers and sponsors share ideas and experiences. The only exception is the one-day Kwazulu-Natal rally on August 31.
Costs of these weekends are borne by our partners. Mercedes-Benz SA, Ford Southern Africa, Shell and the OneLogix transport group are long-standing supporters of Rally To Read. So is the Jonsson workwear group, whose corporate social investment arm, the Jonsson Foundation, is our lead partner. Besides hosting a rally, the foundation underwrites many of Rally To Read’s operating costs.
There are six rallies in 2019. A Mpumalanga rally happened early this year and dates for a follow-up event before the end of 2019 have still to be finalised.
Confirmed dates are:
August 31: Kwazulu-Natal 1
September 7-8: Free State
September 14-15: Kwazulu-Natal 2
October 12-13: Eastern Cape
October 19-20: Western Cape