A cup for goodness sake

One of the baristas of the new Camps Bay coffee shop, Tafadzwa Chirovera.

A coffee shop with a difference will soon be opening in Camps Bay.

The coffee shop, run by Social Drinks, is the brainchild of non-profit organisation The Social Project.

With every cup of coffee purchased, a free nutritious meal goes to a child who needs it. Since March last year, the organisation has provided more than 25 000 meals.

Michael Darby, who works at the organisation, has called on the community to support the initiative, explaining that The Social Project works in various fields, but primarily in education.

“We have several iLearning centres and have a project called the School in a Box. It allows children in under-resourced communities to access extra lessons content.”

The content is on a tablet which the pupils can use by themselves. These tablets are either at iLearning Centres or what the Social Project calls “School in a Box”.

The content, says Mr Darby, is offered either for free or for a very low price. “Seventy-five percent of schools in South Africa are considered dysfunctional and over half of children who start Grade 1 don’t get to matric.

“We are in a bit of a problem and the biggest issue is that children coming out of school are not employable.”

It was for this reason, he said, that the organisation focused on English, maths, science and computers as well as business.

The Hout Bay resident said they also run iLearning centres around the country, with the extra lessons based on self-taught tablet lessons. “The other thing that they get when they come in is a free meal. They get all the necessary vitamins and minerals they need to get through the day.”

Mr Darby explained that the coffee shop was launched last year – first in Johannesburg and then in Durban.

“We have now moved to Cape Town and we’re trying to get a more permanent base. We’ll have a coffee trailer that can go to events and functions.

“Every coffee that is brought provides a meal for a kid and last year we were able to provide 25 000 meals. We would like it to become a permanent spot on the Camps Bay scene.

“This year we are running our own programmes at five schools in the Kraaifontein area. We’ve also got iLearning centres in Eastridge in Mitchell’s Plain and there is a School in a Box in Tafelsig as well as Ocean View and two in Hout Bay.”

Mr Darby said their goal for the year is to have 50 of these centres up and running around the country. “We want to move towards being sustainable and not relying on funding.

“In the long-term we would
like 100 000 kids to be able to access the content. We’d love them to be available in government schools.”

He said there were volunteers who developed the lessons while the content manager moderated them.

“We have a facilitator at each centre but the way that the tablet is designed is that the kids can navigate themselves to the level that they are comfortable with and what they need help with.”

One way people could help, said Mr Darby, was to fund a School in a Box.

“It’s a fairly inexpensive way of helping a lot of kids because one tablet can be used by up to eight pupils,” he said.

He said his passion came from his background in education and that it was important to have a focus on the foundation phase of school.

“There’s been a lot of attention given to matric and university issues, but the biggest crisis in South Africa without a shadow of a doubt, is what is happening until Grade 4.

“If you go into Grade 4 and can’t read and write or do basic maths, it will hold you back for the rest of your career. That’s where you see the most significant drop in national testing results.”

The WCED agreed that the foundation phase of education was critical.

Millicent Merton, spokesperson for the department, said: “We need to ensure that learners are given the best possible start, so that by the time children reach Grade 4, they will have attained the required levels of literacy and numeracy.”

For more details about the Social Drinks project, visit their website at http://socialdrinks.co.za/ or contact their Cape Town office on 021 791 1017.