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In our previous post on this topic (see here), we pictured Amajingqi – where Axium is involved as operating partner in a four-year Public School Partnership (PSP) pilot project – flourishing in terms of Chief Dumalisile’s 30-year Rural Industrialisation and Development Plan. Today we zoom in on how our work in schools fits into the picture.

“It’s a myth that a child from a city is better than a child from the rural community. What makes that child better is the exposure, the kind of environment within which education is taking place. Give a child from a rural set up an environment that is conducive to learning in every aspect – I tell you, you’ll see!”

These were among Chief Ngwenyathi Dumalisile’s opening words during a recent conversation about the Amajingqi Public School Partnership (PSP). The project was initiated in the Chief’s pursuit of quality education able to unlock potential for children in his area. He hopes to build his people’s capacity to join him in realising a long-term vision for developing Amajingqi as a model of rural possibility (more on his plans here).

Seeing the problem of a rural education system still dangerously lagging behind its urban counterparts, the Chief started searching for solutions. He believed strongly in equal education, but knew nothing about public school partnerships at that stage. It was in making contact with the DG Murray Trust (DGMT) that this particular initiative started to take shape.

After learning more about the work being done in partnership schools in the Western Cape, Chief Dumalisile decided he wanted an adapted version of this here, for the children in his region. He set about drawing in partners, together with DGMT who mobilised funders. “You can’t make it on your own; you’ve got to come up with a team.”

The Chief at a meeting with old friends and advisory members of the Education Council of Amajingqi (ECA).

The Chief completed his own basic education in Tsolo, attending a school that was for the sons of chiefs and headmen before going on to tertiary studies at the then University of the Transkei. His family were educated and valued education highly. “People who are actually learned were sprinkled all over, but it never permeated to making it a culture into the entire society,” he explained, speaking of his childhood when a decent education was something only a handful gained. Educated individuals sometimes worked as teachers or police in the area, while others moved to towns to work as clerks, scattering learning.

Worryingly, an inheritance of weaker schools and continuing patterns of urban migration mean the number who access quality schooling in rural areas remains low. Chief Dumalisile hopes to see this changed so that every rural child can succeed regardless of the family they are born into. “By virtue of being a leader of a community I am saying let this be intensified so that everyone is learned.”

When time came to take up his position, Chief Dumalisile found himself bound by Law to “develop our communities by tapping into all spheres of government” – a proviso that in practice means he has to source financing by appealing to various government departments. This is a tricky dynamic, demonstrating the challenges of a dual system operating between the customary and national frameworks. In order to try source secure funding from diverse streams, the Chief knocked on the doors of government departments and NGOs, embassies and private companies. Partnering for the PSP project brings some structure and institutional support in the sphere of education at least.

Support here means improving learner achievement so individual children become a source of inspiration for others going forward. “Some kind of beacon of hope has got to be established amongst the people,” he said. “We want to inspire people who do not understand what education is all about. We want everybody to understand that education is the engine of liberating man.”

The natural beauty of the Amajingqi region viewed from near Zwelinzima school.

“We are stifled by the environment that is not conducive to learning, but immediately when you open that opportunity to them, it’s very possible,” the Chief added.

He then cocked his head and with a teasing grin said: “Be part of it. Do you want to come down?” We laughed at the transparent poaching of staff from Zithulele, but also took the moment to recognise that this is the Chief’s core work: to draw together a team of people committed to Amajingqi’s future.

“We know where we are going, where we come from, where we are now. We know the hurdles we have got to jump through as we move on, but we are determined, we will make it,” Chief Dumalisile said.

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