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The national Rally to Read project reached new heights this year in terms of the funds raised for investment in this long-running educational programme as well as the number of participants that took part in the various rallies.
It was gratifying to the organisers to see several additions to the list of companies supporting the annual event which is a joint venture between the McCarthy Motor Group, which is the organiser, media partner Financial Mail and the READ Educational Trust, which is responsible for implementation.
“We are absolutely delighted with the outcome of this year’s 10 rallies which took libraries of books to learners and provided educator training at 152 rural schools,” explained the McCarthy Group’s Internal Communications and CSI Manager, Iris Francis.
“With the assistance of 75 co-sponsors, we invested more than R6,5-million in this year’s Rally to Read programme. These funds were used for the improvement of language, literacy and communication skills of learners in remote, very disadvantaged rural schools.
Ten rallies took place over five weekends this year and involved more than 2 000 participants driving 500 four-wheel drive vehicles. There were about 180 participants per rally and this event once again showed how many of South Africa’s leading companies can collaborate when aiming for a single objective which, in this case, is educational upliftment. The support this year was even better than the original target of approximately 1 400 participants in 450 vehicles.
When visiting the 152 schools the participants interacted with about 35 000 learners, who received the books, and 2 000 educators who underwent training.
Although Brand Pretorius has retired as CEO of the McCarthy Group he continues his involvement with Rally to Read as an ambassador and attended two of the rallies.
“Now that I have more time on my hands, I will be able to be even more involved than before in the Rally to Read programme. I find it a privilege and honour to have the role of Rally to Read ambassador,” said Brand Pretorius.
“The Rally to Read programme is fully integrated and well proven. It carries the blessing and support of the various departments of education and continues to deliver meaningful benefits to learners, educators and communities. It is, undoubtedly, one of the most significant corporate social investment programmes in the area of education,” explained Pretorius.
“The recently released results of an assessment of literacy and numeracy in South African schools are very concerning,” continued the Rally to Read ambassador. “It showed that ,the national average performance in Grade 3 for literacy was only 35%. This is very disheartening for a country crying out for skilled workers. However, it does highlight the fact that Rally to Read is targeted in the right area, being the improvement of literacy. It also goes further and concentrates on schools in remote rural areas that are particularly disadvantaged in the current educational system.”
The event’s chief co-coordinator, Iris Francis, add that she was very pleased to have had four of the rallies sponsored by big business: “First Rand Volunteers, hosted the North-West rally, RSA Tankers (United Bulk), took care of the Free State event, while Mercedes Benz SA hosted the Eastern Cape rally and the mines – De Beers, Finsch Mine, Idwala Lime and PPC Lime – combined to play their part for education in the Northern Cape rural area.”
“The progress we have made in this project is nothing short of amazing. In the first year a group of 25 four-wheel drive vehicles delivered books worth about R100 000 to 13 schools in rural KwaZulu-Natal. We found that the project was so well-received that it heralded the start of the annual Rally to Read programme. Since then it has grown to become national and the number of convoys delivering books and other educational material to far flung rural schools has grown substantially.
“Many major companies have joined the three original sponsors to ensure Rally to Read’s ongoing success and over the years the project has resulted in the investment of almost R50-million in improving the quality of literacy teaching in remote rural schools. Many of these schools are often neglected by the mainstream education system so this is a much-appreciated undertaking. Rally to Read is, above all, an outstanding example of the power and impact of collaboration,” concluded a proud Iris Francis.