By: Elsie de Villiers, Elsie de Villiers, Project Manager and Adult Literacy Specialist at Media Works, As Nelson Mandela once said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” says Elsie de Villiers.
Many South African domestic workers and gardeners have not had access to any formal education and this has resulted in an increase in illiteracy levels, and above all a stagnated job market.
South Africans rely heavily on domestic workers and gardeners to assist them with the running of their households. Job requirements for these workers have grown extensively over the years, from simply being cleaners to child-minding, looking after pets, cooking and maintenance work.
“Being a working single mother with work demands I rely heavily on my helper to assist with the running of my home and the care of my children. I realised that my helper, through no fault of her own, was not literate enough for the demands of the job that I entrusted her to do.”
Hennie van Graan from WHM Labour Law Advisors shared Elsie’s vision. They wanted to do make a difference for their local community of Hennopspark in Centurion. Together they devised a programme to empower domestic workers and gardeners in their area with literacy training.
Peet du Preez from Leriba Lodge provided the venue along with computers and manpower for the training. Candidates were recruited via the local church and soon a group of volunteers were assembled. Facilitators were trained to assess potential learners. Training was done in the afternoons and the team achieved a 100 percent pass rate. Elsie and Hennie achieved their goal virtually free of costs.
Inspired by their achievements the team now building on this solid foundation. By the end of 2013, all the learners will have finished Level 4 Communication in English and will start Mathematical Literacy in 2014. Once this is complete the learners will start the Work Readiness programme with successful candidates being placed in internships where they can live their dreams and create a future for themselves.
There is a benefit to both the learner and the potential employer. The learner possesses skills of a certain standard, and after a three-month internship, the employer can decide to take the individual on a permanent basis.
“I believe that this is our way of making a difference and leaving a legacy for our children, learners and the job market as a whole. We have created opportunities and not waited for them to come our way.
“My moto has always been – be the change you want to see! This is my way of putting it into practice” Elsie says.