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What we do |    Rural Dilemma

Rural villagers in the developing world have often seemed like the forgotten people of today with most of the attention focused on the more visible problems associated with urban slums. For much of sub-Saharan Africa, India and China the percentage of rural-dwellers far outweighs that of the urban populace3. People growing up in rural areas tend to be less educated than their urban counterparts and have limited opportunities for improving their lot. Infrastructure is dilapidated if it exists at all, with high percentages of people lacking access to safe water, health care and sanitation. Together these push and pull factors drive people to seek work in the cities where they join the uneducated, unemployed seeking low-skilled jobs.

These factors are further complicated in the case of South Africa. The history of the country has left a legacy of poorly trained teachers in rural schools, inefficiencies in local government and a culture of migrant labor, which strips the villages of all but the young, sick and elderly. HIV-Aids, with an estimated infection rate of nearly 30 % in some areas of the country4 , has left many children in the care of grandmothers or forced to fend for themselves. This uniquely bleak picture has little to encourage hope for the generation of rural kids growing up to face a world increasingly in need of skills that they do not have.

The picturesque village of Zithulele, nestled in the rolling green hills of the Eastern Cape, is one of many such villages in South Africa where these challenges move beyond statistics to become a daily reality for inhabitants. Here fewer than 30 % of students pass the final grade 12 exam, 20 % of schools do not have electricity and 10 % of learners have at least one parent deceased5. With only a handful of school graduates obtaining the grades necessary for further study, youth have no opportunity to break out of the cycle that keeps them either locked in rural poverty or on the road to city shanty-towns where there is no guarantee of work.

3. UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs website http://esa.un.org/unup/p2k0data.asp
4. Avert website Hhttp://www.avert.org/safricastats.htm
5. "School & Learner quantitative study - abridged report" (2007), SA Solutions

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