The Mercedes-Benz group of companies in South Africa (MBSA) continues to embrace the Rally to READ project, which entered its 14th year in 2012. The longevity of MBSA’s support over 11 years attests to the worth of the initiative, and goes to the heart of the MBSA philosophy of participating in community development schemes that have a sustainable impact.
Businesses join hands with national organisers McCarthy, Financial Mail, and the READ Educational Trust to assist schools in rural areas of South Africa by providing educational equipment, as well as curriculum support to teachers. Schools are selected and supported over a three year period, so sponsors are able to return in subsequent years to experience the impact made on the lives of the recipients.
Research shows that the average 16-year-old in a rural school has a reading skill level up to seven years behind that of his urban counterpart. Without effective reading and writing skills, the likelihood of completing high school or tertiary education and the prospect of future work is extremely limited.
The Rally to Read concept began as a small project in KwaZulu Natal in 1998, and over the past 14 years has escalated to include rural regions in eight provinces. MBSA, which has its manufacturing plant in East London in the Eastern Cape, started its Rally to Read involvement in this province. The company has acted as host for other corporates and organisations who participate in this leg of the initiative for a number of years.
“Because MBSA draws its workforce largely from the Eastern Cape, the standard of learners exiting the education system in this province is of great interest to us. We continue to do everything in our power to join hands with other interested parties to produce well-educated young people with a skills base relevant to the needs of industry,” says company CEO, Dr Martin Zimmermann.
So great is MBSA’s confidence in the impact of the Rally to READ project, the company has also extended its involvement to other provinces over the past five years. In 2012, in addition to hosting the Eastern Cape leg, MBSA staff will also travel in convoy to the Free State, KwaZulu Natal and Mpumalanga to show their support.
In each province, the weekend-long Rally sees sponsoring corporates take to the road in 4x4 vehicles to deliver books, teaching aids, science kits, sports equipment, educational toys and other materials to some of the most neglected and under-developed schools in rural South Africa
STORY BY MERCEDES-BENZ