The environment and resources provided by the Pebbles Project are vital in supporting children’s learning opportunities, which is where FACET stepped in, helping to deliver these benefits to a greater number of youngsters. FACET’s Graff Mobile Learning Centres – which comprise two computer labs, one book-and-DVD library, a multi-purpose vehicle and a mobile classroom – tour the wine farms, providing educational programmes and support. This not only ensures that children such as Chanelle have access to computers, but that they thrive in subjects such as mathematics and literacy as well as life skills.
“We don’t have a computer at home and my parents have never used one,” Chanelle explains. “I’m so lucky to be able to go to After-School Club, because I can use the books and work on a laptop, then print everything out. My school marks have definitely improved.” Chanelle’s nearest public library is six miles away, in Stellenbosch, and her parents would otherwise need to pay for a taxi there and back. “By the time they come home from work, they know I will have finished all my homework. And the best thing is, I don’t have to travel – the Mobile Learning Centre comes direct to the farm.”
Having first entered the Pebbles Project programme through its early-childhood development programme aged just three months, Chanelle will continue to be supported to ensure she develops into a capable, independent and confident young woman. While gender-based discrimination in terms of access to school does not constitute a significant problem in South Africa, female pupils are nonetheless more at risk of experiencing violence and abuse in the school context. A recent study by the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention revealed that five per cent of girls at secondary school were likely to have been sexually assaulted or raped. Understandably, the experience of violence can result in a fear of attending school and a consequent failure to fulfil academic potential.
“Starting high school this year has been a challenge,” confirms Chanelle. “It’s hard not to give in to peer pressure, and there have been a few instances of bullying. My self-esteem took a bit of knock and, some days, I just didn’t want to go to school.”
Issues such as these are addressed via FACET’s life-skills programme, which encourages young people to discuss self-esteem, leadership, and even child-trafficking.
“Through the Graff Mobile Learning Centre, I found my confidence and my voice.”
Chanelle smiles. “I now understand that my identity is separate from my friends’ and my parents’. Now I have the courage to choose and to say ‘no’ when necessary.” This very practical empowerment is part of the transformation that Chanelle likens to a life switched from black-and-white to colour. “Working so hard on my maths is helping me achieve my dream of becoming an accountant,” she says proudly. “Imagine that!”
Thanks to the Pebbles Project and FACET, this dream really is achievable. One beneficiary, who hails from the same farming community as Chanelle, is currently completing his Bachelor’s degree in education at Stellenbosch University. And the approach of enriching one child’s life at a time is proof of just how far within their community the ripple effect can be felt.