A year at a South African high school

The World
Students at COSAT.

Students study in a classroom at COSAT (Centre of Science and Technology).

Anders Kelto

This blog post is part of a year-long series, School Year: Learning, Poverty, and Success in a South African Township.

In poor communities around the world, many kids fail at school. But some succeed. How? What obstacles do students who live in poverty face, and how do they overcome them? How do some public schools give kids a great education, despite limited resources?

Those are the basic questions I’m hoping to address in this year-long series.

The series is set in a special place: COSAT (Centre of Science and Technology), a magnet high school in one of South Africa’s largest and most densely populated townships. Most of the students are poor, and deal with incredibly difficult lives at home. And yet, the school consistently has one of the highest graduation rates in the entire country. In most years, every single senior graduates.

When I first visited the school two years ago, I could immediately tell it was special. The kids seemed happy to be there. They listened. They asked questions. They laughed. They talked to their teachers after class. They worried about their homework. It certainly wasn’t your typical “slum” school.

I haven’t been the only one to notice these things. Because of the school’s success, it has been forced to expand – dramatically. They’ve more than doubled in size in the last two years, without a commensurate expansion of money and staff. Now the question is, can they continue to be successful on a much larger scale, with more limited resources? If so, can their educational model be replicated elsewhere in South Africa, and the developing world? Those are questions I’m also hoping to explore.

But most importantly, I want this series to allow you to get to know the students and staff at COSAT. I hope to give you a glimpse into the lives of these amazing kids, who face enormous obstacles, yet usually come out on top. I hope that, through my stories, you’ll gain an appreciation for their lives, and will be there each step of the way, as they experience hardships and success, from now until the end of 2013.

See you at school,


Will you help our nonprofit newsroom today?

Every week, more than 2 million listeners tune into our broadcast and follow our digital coverage like this story, which is available to read for free thanks to charitable contributions from listeners like you. But less than 1% of our audience supports our program directly. From now through the end of the year, every gift will be matched dollar for dollar by a generous donor, which means your gift will help us unlock a $67,000 challenge match.

Will you join our growing list of loyal supporters and double your impact today?