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Rally To Read

So there you are, driving your car or bakkie through the most spectacular scenery South Africa has to offer, and you think to yourself: “Imagine waking up to this every morning. The people living here are so lucky.”

They may not think so. It’s one thing to gaze in wonder as you pass through; quite another to be stuck there, with little chance of escape. One person’s stunning valley is another’s prison.

Many children in remote rural areas finish school as they started it: unable to read or write.

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Tyeni Primary Grade 3, Sivenathi Pepese, 7 reads one of the new books delivered to the school by a team of 6 members from the Rally to Read Team. PHOTO: MARK ANDREWS. 28/5/2011. © Daily Dispatch.

It’s not their fault. How far would your children have got in a school without educational materials: no reading books, exercise books, pens or pencils. No playground or play equipment, beyond paper crushed and taped together to resemble a ball. Perhaps no desks, running water or toilets.

Welcome to the reality of rural schooling for hundreds of thousands of South African children. But it doesn’t have to be like this. A R35,000 sponsorship can make a lifetime of difference to hundreds of children. It can also give you an experience to remember.

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BIG MOMENT: Tyeni Primary Grade 3 pupil Miso Zonke, 8, shows off her reading skills during the weekend’s ‘Rally to Read’ campaign. Pictures: MARK ANDREWS. 28/5/2011. © Daily Dispatch.

In the 20 years it has been operating, Rally To Read has found that a little goes a very long way in rural schools. That R35,000 will provide a rural primary school with two portable classroom libraries packed with carefully-selected books designed to teach children to read.

It will also fund a year’s additional teacher training for the school’s educators.

Each school is supported for three years — every year the books we deliver are a little more advanced — so that by the time we finish, a culture of reading and appropriate teaching is embedded.

Does it work? Independent studies show a rapid improvement in literacy skills at Rally To Read schools. Not convinced? Then come and see for yourself.

At no extra cost (besides fuel and alcoholic drinks), sponsors are invited to join Rally To Read when it delivers books to schools. Each year, hundreds of sponsors and companions join us on weekend rallies into far-flung corners of the country, where we meet the children we are helping, as well as their families and community members.

It’s a big event in their lives. Sometimes hundreds of people turn out to greet the strangers offering their children a future. It can be emotional; tears are not uncommon.

There are four rallies in 2018. One, in Kwazulu-Natal, is already full. But there are still spaces in the others. The Free State rally is on September 8-9 and will support primary schools around Reitz, Petrus Steyn and Tweeling.  The Western Cape rally, on October 27-28, will take sponsors into the Winelands region around Robertson. Finally, the Eastern Cape rally will go to scho

ols around Butterworth, in the former Transkei, on November 3-4. This is a new date; the rally was originally scheduled for September.

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THE PLEASURE OF READING: Riette Els of Read Educational Trust at Mabate Primary School during the Free State leg of this year’s McCarthy Rally to Read. Pic: KATY CHANCE. Circa May 2010. © Business Day

Who are you likely to meet on these weekends? Sponsors come from all kinds of industries, but transport and automotive companies have always been big supporters. Many of SA’s motor companies remain involved. In addition, Shell, Mercedes-Benz SA and the OneLogix/United Bulk group host the KZN, Eastern Cape and Free State rallies respectively, with Jonsson Workwear doing the same in the Western Cape. Hosts cover the costs of sponsors’ weekend food and accommodation.

Weekends start ridiculously early on Saturday morning when sponsors and guests (it may be colleagues or family) meet to load their vehicles with libraries and other educational materials. Convoys split later into small groups, each of which visits two schools. Once that’s done, everyone meets up again at nearby accommodation, usually a hotel, for drinks and dinner, where we share feedback and experiences.

On Sunday morning, participants have the opportunity to visit local places of interest, or they may head home after breakfast.

For more information about Rally To Read and details on how to become a sponsor, visit

Tristan Wiggill
Seasoned writer, journalist, photographer, and editor.
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