The day starts at 7 am. Children arrive on buses from nearby communities such as Philippi, Langa and Manenberg. They receive a meal, then set into their learning schedule. Pupils from grade R all the way through to matriculants are ready to add another layer to their foundation of education. All coming from deeply disadvantaged and impoverished households around Cape Town, each day gives them a chance at a brighter future.
This is the purpose of Christel House, a non-profit educational charity that goes much further than most. It celebrates a holistic approach: from education to sustenance, from uniforms to family support – Christel House covers the gamut of challenges faced by children and teenagers caught in the grip of vicious peri-urban poverty, where drugs and crime can derail the brightest minds.
“Our goal is to drive social change and break the poverty cycle,” said Kristen Goezaar, Public Relations & Communications Officer at Christel House and an alum of the school. “We do this with the delivery of a quality, character-based education model that addresses all social elements. We walk with the child and family from grade R to Matric, and support graduates for up to five years post-schooling.”
A winning formula
Christel House South Africa (CHSA) works. For nearly a decade it has achieved a 100 percent pass rate. 91 percent of all of its past graduates are either employed, in a learnership programme or studying. Of the matric class of 2017, more than two-thirds are eligible for university.
This galvanises the three pillars on which CHSA builds its success: academic excellence, character development and employability. Its mission is to create successful, self-sufficient citizens who ultimately contribute to growing the South African economy. This support continues after they matriculate: CHSA alum are not cast to the wild world, but remain part of a close-knit family of staff and mentors that guide and assist them through their studies and first years of employment.
“Prior to this, I have been involved in a lot of initiatives, but there was no consistency,” said Chris Buchanan of Dell South Africa, who recently joined the CHSA board. “This model is different and impacts the students for the whole eighteen years. It delivers a very productive and self-sufficient member of society as a result. Our dream is for more impoverished youth to enjoy such a schooling model.”
Buchanan has been directly involved with CHSA for a number of years, as well as through his capacity as Client Solutions Director at Dell EMC South Africa. Dell is a major sponsor of CHSA and provides state-of-the-art technology, including tablets and computers, for the students to use. The technology vendor also supports the school’s nutrition and College & Careers programmes. CHSA recently recognised this by presenting an award to Dell EMC at the vendor’s recent Africa Partner Summit held in Cape Town, South Africa.
Developing tomorrow’s leaders
Technology is a fundamental part of CHSA’s success, not the least because exposure to it places the students at the forefront of in-demand skills. All the students have access to internet connectivity, as well as modern software and services that are commonplace in today’s companies.
741 children are currently enrolled at CHSA. All of them can anticipate a brighter future, thanks to the diligent focus and consistent effort of this remarkable charity. CHSA’s biggest development priorities are on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) which aligns with South Africa’s development goals. Its students are equipped with related skills that will ensure they enter high-earning potential careers suited to the future economy of South Africa.
An independent study by EY galvanises the CHSA strategy: it found that CHSA graduates are much more likely to enter tertiary institutions compared to public schools situated in their impoverished communities. They are also more likely to study or be employed: 91 percent compared to the Cape Town youth employment average of 31.9 percent. Its top student of 2017 placed 10th overall in the Western Cape for economics, scoring 97 percent. CHSA is even outperforming many private schools.
“The mission of Christel House is to alleviate poverty through its systematic and holistic approach,” said Francois Louw, the school’s Director of Fundraising & Marketing. “Christel House gives our children hope, allows them to dream and provides them with the skills and determination to break free from a life of poverty. I cannot overstate how hopeless poverty can make you feel. It is a powerful and complex force that you can’t beat with just a few good intentions. Education, character and purpose: those are the cornerstones of a CHSA education.”
The work has only begun. CHSA can use support in the form of sponsors, mentors and more. There are many ways to get involved, articulated on the CHSA website (https://sa.christelhouse.org/) or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org
A strong partnership
Dell EMC’s support for the school has not gone unacknowledged. This September, Christel House awarded a fellowship to Aongus Hegarty, President of Dell EMC EMEA. Said Hegarty: “This is an incredible honour. At Dell EMC we truly believe in our power to help change the world. But no matter how many solutions or services you deliver to the market, you don’t realise your potential impact until you work with such a life-changing charity such as Christel House. They are truly building the future.”
The fellowship is just the latest milestone in this relationship, something that Adri Marais, CEO of Christel House’ South African chapter, fully aims to keep growing: “Great ambitions can’t do much if you don’t have that support, those shoulders to stand on. We create that foundation for our pupils, but in turn, we rely on patrons to help Christel House move forward as well. Dell EMC has been an incredible partner to our work and this fellowship is just a small way to show our appreciation. Through them, we are able to give our learners that technology foundation that is so vital for the future that is emerging.”
But the Christel House magic does not need to be confined to just its schools. If you can find a way to bring the magic of Christel House to other schools, do it. The results speak for themselves and help South Africa stand strong. Every child with a future means a future for us all.
Christel House South Africa by the numbers:
- 941 enrolled students.
- 50+ teachers and teaching assistants.
- 6 qualified nursing and counselling staff.
- 18 transport buses.
- 2 nutritional meals and a snack daily.
- 800+ uniforms, sports kits, books and stationery.
- 5+ years of after-school support for graduates.