A small contribution – a large impact: Child Sponsorship in South Africa

Bright Start. Bright Smiles

A small contribution – a large impact: Child sponsorship in South Africa

Zilla Stekhoven: Founder of Sawabona Africa

Do you still remember your first day at school? How excited you were, what your classroom looked like and how quickly you learned to read and write or learn maths? This is not a matter of course everywhere.

In South Africa, a good school education usually depends on the financial means of the parents. Unfortunately, the colour of your skin and where you were born still largely determines which school a child attends. Bright Start not only provides poorer children with a good education through sponsorships, it also supports them in their overall long term development. In this blog you will learn more about the school situation in South Africa and how you can help a child receive a better education by sponsoring a child.


Bright Start learners. they like to win
Image: A proud Sponsored Child. Source: Bright Start

Free government schools in South Africa often do not provide children and youth with an adequate education. Children’s literacy has been declining in recent years.1 The number of school dropouts is also increasing rapidly, due to teenage pregnancy, early exposure to drugs and gangs, among other factors. 2 All of this affects the majority of children in South Africa and results in a low education outcomes.

The root lies in the system

If parents wish to send their children to a school that will provide them with a good education, they have to be able to afford to pay the school fees. The reason for this lies in the system:

Government (public) schools are subsidized, the same as in Germany, however the amount of the subsidy the school receives  depends on the poverty of the neighbourhood where the school is located – the poorer the neighbourhood, the more support they receive. What sounds good at first impression, this actually turns out to be a disadvantage for poorer children when one looks deeper, because these subsidies cannot cover the entire cost of education. Schools in affluent areas therefore charge high fees to cover the costs of operation, employ more teachers, pay their  salaries and keep the learner – teacher ratio lower. In contrast to schools in poorer areas, who rely 100% on the subsidy resulting in overcrowded classes and minimal resources available to the children.

Bright Start learners arrive at school
Image: A Bright Start sponsored child arrives at school. Source: Bright Start

Bright Start: holistic development and support for disadvantaged children

Through a good friend of mine, I became aware of Bright Start. He was raising money for charity for the Cape Epic, a challenging mountain bike race in South Africa, and I learnt more about the child sponsorship programme. This caught my attention.

Their model convinced me from the start, because they not only pay the school fees, but also support the children in their everyday lives and encourage their educational and personal development. This is a crucial, as most of the time these support structures are lacking. Often, the children’s parents or caregivers can barely read, if at all, and are therefore unable to help them with their studies or homework. They can not afford health checks or extra mural activities and do not structures for the children in place. This is exactly where the Bright Start model comes in and supports parents and children.

Bright Start’s holistic program offers after-school care, sports and recreational activities, an open ear for all problems and concerns, and trains children to take responsibility for their own learning.

 Thus, it is completely focused on the all round development of the child above and beyond a good education, This fosters self-confidence and independence they need as they grow up.

Bright Start Sponsorship Programme
Image: Sponsored learner Qama happy to be at school. Source: Bright Start

From mission to vision

Sharon, the co-founder of Bright Start, explains why she started Bright Start:

“My daughter and I were financially supporting two students from the local poor community for some time. We quickly realized that we needed to focus on more than just paying the school fees. For the children to succeed at school, they need tutoring, help with homework help, they need to be healthy and so much more. That’s when we came up with the idea for Bright Start.”

We support Bright Start by offering sponsorships from Germany for children from the first to twelfth grade.

Would you also like to sponsor a child? Learn more here:

Bright Start Sponsorship Programme

  1. PIRLS 2021 Overview of Key Findings (Quelle: Zenex Foundation, 2023)
  2. Increase in number of out-of-school children and youth in SA in 2020 (Quelle: Statistics South Africa, 2022)