On 21 March 2019, Orbis Investments hosted a talk, ‘My Father’s Coat’ by Michael Charton – a South African historian and conference dinner speaker – in aid of Bokamoso, at The Institute of Directors, 116 Pall Mall, London in UK.

This was a successful evening, where guests were also treated to a canapé dinner and a selection of South African wines.

Read up on what one of our trustees, Peter Goldsworthy had to say in his opening speech…

Good evening everyone, welcome and thank you very much for joining us tonight.  My name is Pete Goldsworthy and I’m one of the Trustees of the Bokamoso Education Trust, the charity which you are supporting with your presence here this evening.  

In African tradition, when the village gathers to hear the storyteller recite the myths and legends of the people and of the land, the evening’s entertainment might also include a praise singer or imbongi as he is known in Xhosa. His job is to whip up interest in the main event. The imbongi should not be confused with the Springbok impi who welcomes visiting rugby teams with a war dance and a short stabbing spear.

Now I didn’t bring my leopard skin tassles and even if I had I don’t pretend to be either an imbongi or an impi though I am a believer in the great African proverb that you should always cross the river in a crowd to minimise the chances of a crocodile eating you…what I will be doing is giving you a short overview of the Bokamoso Trust before handing over to our main storyteller for the evening.

I’d like to begin by thanking our guest speaker, Michael Charton.  Without his generosity in presenting tonight in aid of our charity, this would not have been possible.  I’d also like to thank Orbis Investments whose kindness in hosting this evening has meant that 80% of all ticket sale revenue will go directly to children’s education, so a big thank you from all of us.  And a final thank-you to my co-Trustees, and especially Samantha Risely who has worked incredibly hard in arranging tonight, thank you Sam.

It’s my pleasure now to briefly introduce the Trust, give you a sense of what it does and to hopefully leave you all with an upbeat message that, despite the education crisis afflicting much of Southern Africa there are many positive stories to tell.

So…tonight is all about story-telling.

For the South-Africans in the audience who grew up under starry skies, you will be no stranger to war stories around camp fires and folk tales about how the giraffe got its long neck, or how the leopard got her spots. After all, we South Africans of a certain age at least were the last to get TV, so books and stories were all we had!  

And so it’s apt that our event tonight takes place in the land of great story tellers.  Beatrix Potter, Agatha Christie, Enid Blyton. Tolkien, Dickens and Dahl. And of characters such as Harry Potter, Winnie the Pooh and of course, the Gruffalo, who were all imagined here, in Britain.

Books, legends, anecdotes and poems. Tales, stories, the transfer of knowledge, beliefs, customs and culture – this is not unique to any one nation or peoples, but all mankind. It is a distinctly human characteristic and one worth celebrating tonight, and every night.

Just as Michael’s story is an historical perspective of South Africa’s past and her people, it is also about looking ahead – or “Bokamoso” – which means ‘future’ or ‘the future’ in Sotho and Swahili.

It has been evident for some time now that the future of South Africa’s education system lies precariously in the balance. The 2019 State of Education Report is a sobering read. For every 100 learners that start school, only 50 will make it to GCSE level, 14 will qualify for university, and just 6 will achieve an undergraduate degree within 6 years. Approximately half of South African primary schools could be described as “cognitive wastelands”, meaning that in those schools not a single learner can read and understand what they are reading. In these schools, most teachers (80%) lack the content knowledge and instructive skill to teach the subjects they are currently teaching. For example, 75% of Grade 6 mathematics teachers cannot achieve 60% on a grade 6/7 level maths test.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the task ahead, to feel dwarfed by the challenges being faced in South Africa today.  Yet the reward of changing the course of just one life, of re-writing just one story is worth every effort and every ounce of energy.

Included in your welcome pack is the story of Lerato Ncube, just one of the children currently supported by the Trust and I’d urge you to read it if you have a chance to do so later. The Trust is filled with ‘feel good stories’ like hers.

The story of Bokamoso has very humble beginnings. A group of friends house sharing in Johannesburg, noticed their cleaner’s child playing in the garden each day when he should have been at school. His mother, a single parent, couldn’t afford the fees so the group of friends offered to pay for his studies and the cost was easily borne when split between all of them. And so Matthias Ndlovu became the first beneficiary of Bokamoso.

Now, over 10 years later we have 58 children in the Trust’s care with fully paid tuition from Reception year right through to Grade 12 or GCSE equivalent; and we have another 4 children in the final stages of enrolment. We have corporate sponsors and individual donors committed to putting a child (or several children) through an entire school career. We have a strong balance sheet, where we invest any surplus funds for future years while the children are young, and their school fees are lower. We host multiple events throughout the year, in London and in cities across South Africa, and at current exchange rates; your ticket price in Sterling will go a long way to taking on more children in 2020 and beyond.

Bokamoso Education Trust exists to help educate tomorrow’s great writers, poets and story-tellers. It exists so that we can dream of a future that is brighter, holding more promise for more people and to ensure that the best South African stories are yet to be written.

And with that it gives me great pleasure to introduce Michael Charton. Michael – thank you once again for sacrificing the warm weather and sandy beaches of Cape Town to be with us in London tonight. This is the second time that I will hear this story and I am looking forward to it as much if not more than the first. Ladies and Gentlemen, please give a warm welcome to Michael Charton and Part 1, of My Father’s Coat…