It’s more urgent than ever for the private sector to help alleviate the enormous shortfall in essential education facilities. Government is not keeping up with the existing and increasing needs of schools. Millions of children are not getting what they need for a comprehensive education.
These are among the preoccupations of John Matthews, CEO of the 100-year-old Garden Cities, the Western Cape’s oldest and largest residential development company. Matthews resolved while he was still at school to do what he could to improve facilities for education in disadvantaged communities. And he has.
The Garden Citeis Archway Foundation that was established for the purpose shortly after he took office, has made a big dent in the shortfall of hundreds of school halls. Since it started, the Foundation has been responsible for the building of 100 school halls, alone or with the collaboration of the Western Cape Education Department (WCED). The foundation is endowed with funds from the company’s profits to do its work.
More recently, the Archway has also been partnering the University of the Western Cape to provide science laboratories for schools in need in the province, and so far, it has collaborated in scores of these projects. The labs are provided complete with the entire infrastructure that includes hardware, equipment and chemicals, as well as the training of teachers in their use.
‘Growing up, I knew what it was like to go to a school that lacked all the things that teachers then, and particularly now, consider absolutely essential to a holistic education. Things like the halls – which nearly a million kids in the Western Cape still today don’t have – are not add-ons or luxuries. Without them, it will be an ongoing struggle to achieve world-level education standards.
‘And there’s actually no reason whatsoever that our children shouldn’t have the best education the world can offer. It’s all in the will of the people who have the power to create the change.’