Top-class education for rural poor

first_img2 August 2005Over six years, the Winterberg School Trust has integrated 12 basic farm schools scattered across the Eastern Cape into a single organisation providing quality education for rural children. The vision of two farmers’ wives and a host of donors have transformed the school, nestling in a valley 25km from the town of Tarkastad, into a top facility offering skills-based development to parents, teachers and children.For many years, farm schools were scattered throughout the 100 800 hectare district. Each school provided rudimentary education in mixed-grade classes, and then only up to grade seven.For those children wanting to extend their education to grade eight and beyond, it meant locating to township schools in larger towns far from their homes, which for most parents was unaffordable and unsafe.It has taken more than six years to amalgamate 12 farm schools into the Winterberg School Trust, which provides quality education to learners from grade R (reception year) to grade nine in single-grade classes.Registered as a non-profit organisation in 1990, the trust was initiated by local farmers’ wives, Barbara Scott and Joanne King, along with some of the current trustees, notably Prof Paul Webb of the University of Port Elizabeth.With generous financial help from both local and international corporations and individual funders, the school now has a complex of modern face-brick buildings with facilities to provide academic and skills-based development of children, parents and educators in the community.“It has taken commitment, hard work and dedication to achieve all this,” says trust director Joanne King. “Without our financial funders none of it would have been possible.“Our reward? The academic results we are achieving, pupils’ pride in their school, and happy parents who appreciate what we’re doing to better their lives.”With financial help from local and international corporations and individual funders, the school now has a complex of modern face-brick buildings, as well as transport for the children (Photo: First Rand Foundation)An impressive educationFifty pre-school children and 220 learners from grades one to 10 are taught by 11 permanently employed qualified teachers, accommodated at the school. The full-time teachers are helped by a full-time director, assistant director, administrator and seven part-time staff who provide specialist skills in extra-curricular tuition.Many of these part-time teachers are local farmers’ wives with impressive academic qualifications.Parents are also encouraged to participate in the seven community projects that have developed over time in response to the needs of families living in the Winterberg. All interconnected and interdependent, they share resources, transport facilities and the expertise of both the Winterberg School Trust staff and external service providers.These projects range from HIV/Aids education, early childhood development, effective parenting, skills development, teacher development and youth empowerment.The Department of Education also offers support, paying 10 of the teachers’ salaries.Local farmers have supported the trust from its inception and have become actively involved in fund-raising projects and providing transport and farm facilities for projects.The success of the school trust is a superb example of what South African rural communities can do to uplift the lives and futures of their people.Derek Christopher is a correspondent for Farmer’s Weekly.This article was originally published in Farmer’s Weekly, South Africa’s premier national agricultural magazine, and is reproduced on with kind permission. Want to use this article in your publication or on your website?See: Using SAinfo materiallast_img read more

Awesome BMX action in Pietermaritzburg

first_img11 April 2011American Corben Sharrah rose to the occasion to win the grand final of the UCI BMX Supercross at Alexandra Park in Pietermaritzburg on Saturday, while young French rider Manon Valentino confirmed her status as the hottest property in female BMX racing by completing a rare double in the women’s division.A quietly spoken 19-year-old from Tucson, Arizona, Sharrah timed his charge to perfection, shifting up a gear in the semi-final to dominate the Frenchman Joris Daudet, who had until that stage been the men’s pacesetter.In the final, Sharrah got the hole-shot and as he led into the first berm he looked in total control.While the pack jostled behind him, resulting in classy Kiwi Marc Willers going down, Sharrah never let his control of the race slip, flying home to win from Australian Khalen “Wild Child” Young, with timetrial superfinal winner Daudet in third.Suited my style of riding’“This track really suited my style of riding,” said Sharrah, as he was mobbed by well wishers from Team USA. “I had a really good gate and won the big battle to get into the first turn first.“When I realised I was leading, it was all about staying calm and focused. That was the critical part for me.“It feels fantastic to win the first World Cup of the season,” he added.Dreadlocked French sensation Manon Valentino, aged 21, was ecstatic after completing a totally dominant win in the women’s main final. “This is totally amazing! What a comeback for me!” gushed the former junior world champion, whose first year as a senior was dogged by injury.In truth, she had won the final by the time she had turned into the second straight.Without peerFrom her quicksilver reaction off the start gate, to her athletic and fluid pace across the demanding 15-metre triple on the first straight, Valentino was without peer, and romped home to win by more than a second from Argentinean Gabriela Diaz, with Kiwi icon Sarah Walker earning the last spot on the podium.Australian ace Sam Willoughby was the shock omission from the main final line-up. He was one of four riders to crash out of the semi-finals in a pileup on the first berm that also accounted for gutsy Canadian Tory Nyhaug, Dutchman Jelle van Gorkom and Joshua Meyers of the USA.Two podium contenders fell by the wayside in a drama-laden second men’s quarter final, where on-form Frenchman Sylvain Andre and former world champion Donnie Robinson of the USA, who was being cheered on his comeback to the Supercross circuit, were both unseated in spills.SA hopeful oustedIn the men’s qualifying rounds the last local hopeful left in the men’s draw Gavin Lubbe was squeezed out of qualifying for the quarter finals. Needing only to repeat the two fourth places from his first two heats, he was sluggish off the starting line and completed his final heat in seventh, and was eliminated.“Yeah, it’s frustrating!” said Lubbe. “I was just late off the gate and was playing catch-up from then onwards.”Earlier in the day South Africa’s solitary female challenger Teagan O’Keeffe was sidelined after failing to make the cut for the women’s semi finals, despite strong vocal support from the packed stands.Pile-upsThe regular pile-ups kept the on-site medical team busy throughout the afternoon, with four serious injuries requiring hospital attention, one for a broken ankle and three for broken collarbones.The heady mix of on-track action and music under the blazing sun provided a compelling spectacle for the big crowd that packed into the new BMX venue at Alexandra Park, which will become a permanent BMX facility after the Supercross.R E S U L T SMen’s FinalCorben Sharrah (USA) 34.054Khalen Young (Aus) 34.815Joris Daudet (Fra) 35.095Raymon van der Biezen (Ned) 35.156Andres Jiminez Caicedo (Col) 35.620Robert de Wilde (Ned) 36.026David Herman (USA) 37.689Marc Williers (NZ) 1.13.216Women’s FinalManon Valentino (Fra) 33.714Maria Gabriela Diaz (Arg) 34.858Sarah Walker (NZ) 36.116Magalie Pottier (Fra) 43.085Caroline Buchanan (Aus) 43.726Vilma Rimsaite (Ltu) 49.473Stefany Hernandez (Ven) 1.04.473Lauren Reynolds (Aus) Did Not FinishSAinfo reporterWould you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See: Using SAinfo materiallast_img read more

House Passes Small Business Healthcare Tax Relief Bill

first_imgThe House passed the bipartisan Small Business Health Care Relief Bill (HR 5447) on June 21 by voice vote. The House Ways and Means Committee had approved the bill on June 15 (TAXDAY, 2016/06/16, C.1). The measure, sponsored by Reps. Charles Boustany, R-La., and Mike Thompson, D-Calif., now heads to the Senate.According to Boustany, the bill would implement the following measures:– Small businesses and local municipalities with fewer than 50 employees will be allowed to continue using pre-tax dollars to give employees a defined contribution for healthcare expenses;– Employees will be allowed to use Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) funds to purchase health coverage on the individual market, as well as for qualified out-of-pocket medical expenses if the employee has qualified health coverage; and– Employers will be protected from financial penalties for providing this cost-sharing option to employees.BackgroundThe IRS issued Notice 2013-54, I.R.B. 2013-40, 287, which generally prohibited the use of HRAs for purchasing health insurance on the individual market because these arrangements do not meet the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (PPACA’s) (P.L. 111-148) minimum benefit and annual dollar cap requirements for health insurance plans offered by employers. “Under this guidance, employers who continue to offer HRAs would be subject to a $100 per day, per employee penalty totaling up to $36,500 per year,” Boustany noted.“The Small Business Healthcare Relief Bill is a common-sense, bipartisan solution ensuring our small businesses aren’t penalized for trying to do the right thing”, Boustany said. “HRAs are an affordable solution for both employees and employers to combat the escalating cost of health insurance,” he added.JCTAccording to the Joint Committee on Taxation’s (JCT) report on the bill (JCX-47-16), “IRS guidance holds that employer payment plans generally fail to meet certain group health plan requirements.” Additionally, an HRA cannot meet those requirements unless it is offered in conjunction with employer-sponsored coverage, the JCT report noted. “An employer may be subject to an excise tax if it provides an employer payment plan or a stand-alone HRA,” it added.Business Community SupportThe U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent a letter in support of HR 5447 to Boustany and Thompson. “This bipartisan bill would restore the ability of small businesses to offer stand-alone HRAs to their employees without being penalized,” the organization noted. “Since many small employers do not have human resource departments or benefits specialists, this bill would provide them with the necessary flexibility to help their employees pay for health care,” it added.The National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) also voiced its support for the bipartisan measure. This legislation “would allow home building firms and other small businesses to provide Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs), which let employers contribute something to their employee health costs,” NAHB Second Vice Chairman Randy Noel said. “HRAs allow small businesses to offer pre-tax dollars to insured employees to help pay premiums and/or other out-of-pocket costs associated with medical care and services”, he added.SenateSens. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., recently released an updated version of their bill that also focuses on allowing small businesses, through HRAs, to help employees purchase health coverage (TAXDAY, 2016/06/16, C.1). Their version of the Small Business Health Care Relief Bill (Sen 3060) “would allow small businesses to reimburse their employees on a pre-tax basis for the purchase of health insurance on the individual market,” Grassley said in a statement.By Jessica Jeane, Wolters Kluwer News StaffCBO Cost Estimate on HR 5447, the Small Business Health Care Relief Act of 2016Ways and Means Press Release: Levin Floor Statement on HR 5447last_img read more

‘Salman Khan is the only actor who dares to be different’

first_imgSameera ReddyState of Affairs It is evident from your story that Punjab and Kerala have topped the list again because of their emphasis on what they are good at-agriculture and education (“North South Lead”, August 16). Transparency and good governance are the keys to being a good state. K. CHIDANAND,Sameera ReddyState of AffairsIt is evident from your story that Punjab and Kerala have topped the list again because of their emphasis on what they are good at-agriculture and education (“North South Lead”, August 16). Transparency and good governance are the keys to being a good state. K. CHIDANAND KUMAR, BangaloreDespite the fact that different states have bagged awards for development in some sector or the other, not a single state has attained self-sufficiency in infrastructure development. Had they done so India would have been ranked first in the comity of developing nations. S. NAGARATNAM, MumbaiThe left parties have always been critical of the policies and programmes of other parties but your survey shows that Left ruled West Bengal is lagging behind in almost all parameters with an overall rating of 14 among the big states. The Left does not have any moral right to preach to anyone else. They should set their own affairs in order first. M.M. GURBAXANI, BangaloreKerala has never tried to shed its post-independence slumber on the economic front even though it has taken enviable care of education and health. It should focus more on sustainable and growth-oriented economic ventures with employment generation within the state rather than depend on overseas dollars and dinars. ANIL THOMAS, ChennaiYour story should be an eye-opener for states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Lagging way behind on almost all socio-economic fronts, these states’ performances have hit rock bottom. Governance is conspicuous by its absence. Illiteracy and poverty are all-pervading. How long will these states be content to be mocked at as laggards of democracy? ALOK SRIVASTAVA, DelhiYou have missed some vital parameters like economic disparity, employment and growth of population while conducting your survey. All these factors have a lot of impact on the social and economic life of the people. Even the UN and other international research organisations take them into consideration while conducting studies. SURESH SURATWALA, MumbaiYour otherwise comprehensive report missed out two important factors- sustainable environment and ecological balance. Aren’t fresh air and clean drinking water important? Similarly cheaper and cleaner energy sources would attract investments and might be an answer to the soaring LPG and petroleum prices. YASH TOKARSI JAIN, on e-mailKerala cannot be considered a progressive state by any yardstick. A state that does not allow any industry to develop even during these times of liberalisation has nothing to do with any kind of progress. Nani Palkhivala had rightly said that social justice, when not accompanied by economic growth, is meaningless. T.S. PATTABHI RAMAN, on e-mailHaving a stable government does not necessarily mean that the state will witness economic progress. Had that been the case states like Bihar, where the RJD has been ruling for the past 14 years, andWest Bengal, where the Left Front has been in power for 27 years, would have prospered like Punjab and Kerala. RAJIB SARMA, on e-mailYour survey has many contradictions. Bihar is ranked last in health but in life expectancy and infant mortality the state is in the top 10. And how can West Bengal, with the fourth largest state GDP (and projected to be the second largest in 2020) be 18th in investment scenario? SAIBAL BAGCHI, on e-mailFloundering AroundThe BJP has been indulging in introspection and analysis of the reasons for its defeat in the Lok Sabha elections (“Still in a Stupor”, August 16). But so far it has only managed to replace “Hindutva” with “Bharatiyata” and “vikas”. SHIKHA KATARIA, PanchkulaThe BJP, the so-called party with a difference, is acting like a child whose lollipop has been snatched away. The Congress too is not behaving like a mature winner. Both parties seem to have forgotten that there are important issues to be dealt with. But instead of cooperating they are only trying to embarrass each other at every available opportunity. JOHN ERIC GOMES, Goa advertisementOne expected the BJP to act in a more responsible manner and Atal Bihari Vajpayee to provide the right guidance. But both have been big let-downs. MADHU SINGH, Ambala CantonmentPrice of HealthLow-cost blood glucose testing machines are indeed a must (“The Sweet Check”, August 9). But the fact is that the cost of the machine is only a part of the total cost of testing at home. The glucose testing strips are a major and recurrent cost. The testing device is of no use without these strips and diabetics would benefit only when the price of these strips come down. RAKSHIT TEWARI, AhmedabadSafety CatchDo our politicians and actors feel their lives are more precious than those of our soldiers or senior citizens who are soft targets for anti-social elements (“VIP Insecurity”, August 9)? People should not be forced to pay for the security of the privileged classes. S.L. BEDEKAR, BangaloreHit ParadeSalman Khan is the only actor who dares to be different (“Role Reversal”, August 2). When most other actors are doing only one or two films a year, Salman will have seven releases in a single year.With his hattrick of hits one can easily say that he is one of the most bankable stars in Bollywood. NITESH VYAS, on e-mailBasic ProblemThe Punjab Government is well within its rights to promulgate the legislation cancelling all its watersharing agreements (“Troubled Waters”, July 26). Punjab is an agrarian economy and it needs water to support the farming community. Contrary to popular belief, it relies heavily on groundwater to meet its agricultural requirements. But now even groundwater levels have dipped because of the indiscriminate installation of tubewells. SATISH SHARMA, DelhiCHARGE COUNTER CHARGEIt is difficult to believe Shujaat Hussain’s contention that Nawaz Sharif is lying because none of his pro-India statements would have endeared him to anyone in Pakistan (“Nawaz Sharif is Lying”, August 16). KESHAV AGARWAL, on e-mailBlame game seems to have become the national sport of Pakistan. The interview raises doubts about whom we should believe. SUBHAM PATHAK, BangaloreHussain’s statements on the Kargil war conceal rather than reveal what actually took place. H.R. BAPU SATYANARAYANA, Mysoreadvertisementlast_img read more