17 July 2017

South Africa: From the Inside - a Toe in the Berg River Water


When it comes to important policy shifts, most people look to national government to take the lead. This needn't be the case.

Our Constitution gives much more scope to provincial and local government to initiate and implement innovative policy than most of us think. That is why I took such an interest in a policy initiative by the Bergrivier municipality, with its seat at the picturesque West Coast town of Piketberg.

Word reached me that this pioneering municipality was planning to introduce incentives and penalties to deal with the crisis of its school drop-out rate - a difficult nut to crack in rural municipalities.

Bergrivier Mayor Evert Manuel and Municipal Manager Hanlie Linde were spurred to action by the Western Cape government's Farmworker Household Census, conducted by the Provincial Department of Agriculture, which concluded that a shockingly low 26.7% of children of farmworkers in the Bergrivier area were actually attending school. And although the situation in the municipality's nine towns and villages looks better, the drop-out rate is still worryingly high, at an average of 40%.

Despite the fact that education is not a local government mandate, the municipality concluded they had to do something to improve the situation.


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