1990s – Deepening Roots

As South Africa entered the decade that would witness the birth of its democracy, SITFE marked an investment of R1, 4 million in helping students realise their potential. The following year, the Trust involved itself in a number of community projects, with the building of schools, and the development of crèches and educational facilities in farm and sugarcane growing areas.

Continuing with ‘teaching the teachers’, in 1991 funding was provided for the development of the St. Mary’s Interactive Learning Experience (SMILE), an initiative aimed at hands-on teacher training and support. Including creative, relevant and affordable learning materials for disadvantaged schools across South Africa, the goal was to improve English language, literacy and communication for Grades 4 to 7 learners and teachers.

In 1992, the Trust allocated R1, 5 million in grants, bursaries and scholarships to upgrade education in Natal, KwaZulu, Northern Pondoland and the Onderberg region of the Eastern Transvaal. In total, 50 educational institutions and 400 tertiary and secondary bursary holders benefited from this plan. Seven schools were directly assisted through building projects, and since the Trust’s inception, nearly R10 million had been given to educational needs. In 1993, SITFE funded the development of a Birding Project for local schools in the Eshowe area, introducing learners to their surrounding environment and integrating conservation management for the preservation of the region’s bird life.

As South Africa prepared to enter into democracy, SASA announced its Teacher Training Bursary recipients, and in 1994, in the Glendale Mill area, 16 classrooms were developed in 4 different schools, with a grant of R500 000 to repair 30 schools in the region. In 1995, SITFE supported the Natal Schools Project, which was responsible for building 35 classrooms in 12 different rural schools in KwaZulu-Natal. This initiative also saw the construction of administration blocks, school halls and ablution facilities for these schools.

1995 also saw the launch of the Equity Project, a programme supported by SITFE, and one that mirrored the newly emerging culture of the country. This project aimed at providing an opportunity for different cultural groups of teachers and trainers to meet and share their experiences. By communicating across barriers of language, race and culture, the hope was that they would not only be personally equipped, but would also learn how to cope with and embrace the many changes facing their schools and students.

In 1997, after consultation with the National Business Initiative (NBI), and with assistance from the Department of Education, SITFE helped facilitate an Education Quality Improvement Programme (EQUIP) in 19 schools in the Empangeni region. The goal of this long-term project was to actively respond to a variety of capacity-building and technical assistance needs from the
schools and to develop effective, sustainable approaches towards meeting these needs. This year also saw SITFE invest in the development of the African Music Project at the University of Natal, establishing a department for the teaching, studying and performing of African cultural music. Under the successful leadership of Dr. Patricia Opondo, the Department continues to grow to this day.

In 1998, significant financial support was given to McCarthy, launching the Rally to Read Campaign. This project aimed at providing much-needed educational resources to schools in deep rural regions of Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal. The Campaign has since spread country-wide providing rural schools with educational resources, support and teacher training. As the decade drew to a close in 1999, SITFE and the English Language Educational Trust (ELET) launched the Indigenous Tree Planting in Schools Project. The goal of this programme was to help teachers and learners in sugar cane growing regions to develop an awareness and appreciation for their environment. This was done through the planting and growing of indigenous trees, using the subjects of Science and Technology to help teach environmental responsibility.

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