Classroom Box Charity - Providing School Materials in Africa
Classroom Box - A charity set up by Rotary Becket
Classroom Box Project
100,000 Children Helped through Rotary.
Mahatma Gandhi said “If we want to reach real peace in the world, we should start educating children”
In 2008 members of the Rotary Club Northampton Becket (“Rotary Becket”) were visiting Malawi and the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, reviewing a number of charitable projects. They visited a number of primary and secondary schools, and were stunned at what they saw. Pupils were sitting on floors, there were no desks, no pens, no pencils, no books or paper, no blackboards. Despite those disadvantages, what came across from the children was a huge appetite for learning.
Back in the UK, Rotary Becket determined that they would help in whatever way they could, and so Classroom Box was born.
“The idea was that we would source basic educational materials and ship them out to Africa where they would be distributed by local Rotary Clubs. We talked with the school heads to find out was needed, raised funds and bought locally in Northampton The initial box contents were pencils, coloured pencils, biros, pencil sharpeners, exercise books, blackboard paint, chalk, glue sticks, hole punches, treasury tags and rulers” explained Chairman David Sparrow.
The cost of the materials was less than the cost of shipping, but at the time, it was still cheaper than sourcing in Africa. The first shipment was 70 boxes to schools in the Eastern Cape, with distribution was carried out by members of our partner the Rotary Club of Arcadia.
The contents were well received. One school wrote to us :
“You have uplifted the standards of education” Another wrote “Staff and parents appreciate what you have done for us”
Encouraged by that, Rotary Becket set about raising funds for another shipment, and a further 120 boxes were shipped to South Africa in 2009.
In 2010 members of Rotary Becket set up a separate Charity “Classroom Box” (Charity No 1136516) and the ambit was extended, and 200 boxes were shipped to Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the World, and distributed to rural schools by the Rotary Club of Lilongwe.
But then shipping costs increased dramatically.
Ian Hill, a trustee of Classroom Box explained
"It was apparent that too much of the money being raised was being spent on freightage. I had lived in South Africa for many years, and had a number of contacts there, so I was asked to see if we could source materials cheaper, and after exploring a number of avenues I was able to persuade Shoprite Holdings Ltd, the number 1 Supermarket group in South Africa, to assist. Shoprite very generously sell materials to us at cost price, and in addition to that, they very generously transport them to Malawi and to the Eastern Cape free of charge, as part of their regular deliveries.
The net effect is that we are now able to assist many more schoolchildren than before"
Another Trustee, John Saynor revealed that it had taken the charity 7 years to distribute the first 600 boxes, but with the assistance of Shoprite, only 3 years to distribute the next 1800. He said that the number of pupils assisted was now over 100,000.
Whilst the cost of a box will vary depending on exchange rates, on average, a box will cost £20, a far cry from the £60 when transport was from the UK.
He said one massive advantage the Charity has, is that by working with partner Rotary Clubs in Africa, every penny raised goes towards buying goods and materials, with no deductions for salaries or expenses.
The Charity has also been greatly assisted by receiving matching grants form Rotary Foundation - Rotary International’s own Charity by way of District Grants. For further information about Rotary Foundation visit https://www.rotary.org/en/about-rotary/rotary-foundation
Trustee Reverend Alan Panton said
“We always keep a constant review of the contents, to ensure they match current needs. We have dropped some of the higher price items to increase the volume of paper and pencils we can supply. We have also added items such as dictionaries, atlases and wall posters from Rotary’s Learning for Life programme”
For the future, he said that they were looking for greater involvement from other Rotary Clubs or charities as box sponsors.
Recent deliveries at three schools in South Africa delivered by our partners Rotary Arcadia