The Karatara Project has been established to create an African university town and Enterprise Development community in Karatara, a small village on the Garden Route, between Sedgefield and Knysna. The core of the project is Eden Campus, a tertiary education facility based on the concept of CIDA City Campus in Johannesburg: to provide low cost, high quality, higher education to thousands of previously marginalised South Africans with a view to replicating the setup at other locations within South Africa and later, all over Africa. Although Eden Campus may develop relationships with similar institutions such as CIDA, at present it is independent. The Eden Campus aims to revise Cida's low-cost educational model for a rural setting in order to create a sustainable platform for transformation.
The Four Year degree offered, once Eden Campus has accreditation, will be a Bachelor of Business Administration. However, the educational philosophy is a holistic one thus business subjects will not be taught in isolation but will be linked to entrepreneurial and enterprise development as well as lifeskills courses. The wish is to broaden students' consciousness and ensure they will graduate as well-rounded individuals with a strong sense of community. The Foundation Year has been accredited by Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. The eventual aim is to become an "Earth Sciences University", and to obtain, in due course, the necessary accreditation to register as a university with the key focus areas being:
- rural development
- the development of business entrepreneurs
The person responsible for getting the project off the ground is Mr Steven Carver, a local resident who is chairman of the Winwin Group, a marketing, learning and communications company in Johannesburg. He has been determined for many years to find a way to uplift the Karatara community and is also an advocate and believer in the CIDA concept. His vision was communicated to Dr Joy Cole, the Executive Mayor of Knysna who, after visiting the CIDA campus in Johannesburg, returned to Knysna with a firm resolve to establish a similar institution in an appropriate location in the Greater Knysna area. After much negotiation, the Knysna Municipality has provided the location to initiate the project: an abandoned old-age home in the centre of Karatara.
Towards the end of 2005 students were chosen from communities and townships along the extended Garden Route. Admission requirements centred mainly on the students' aptitude, leadership abilities and commitment to taking what they learn back to their communities. Only one or two students were selected from each place with the result that there are 42 students registered this year. This has created a diverse student mix and hopefully will ensure that when students take what they have learnt back to their communities, transformation will occur across a broad area.
The students are housed and taught in the old age home. For the first month everyone sat on the floor but thanks to a generous donation there are now desks and chairs in one room and the students have beds. There is an enormous amount of work to be done on the building, most of which will be done by the students themselves after lessons. On the ground there is a team of about 5 people who work for little or nothing to teach, house, feed and counsel the students while spending any remaining time spreading the word about the project to get others on board. Several local residents share the enthusiasm and are helping in myriad ways such as teaching students how to paint; and to build a vegetable garden.
We are looking for individuals and companies that want to get involved and actively participate in giving an education to young people who can and will make a difference, if given the right opportunity. People are needed who believe in what they are doing. Everyone who has visited the Campus is inspired by the drive and commitment of the staff and students to make the dream of Eden Campus a reality. As they build and grow the Campus, so will their needs. For this we need support. The initial funding will be used for the most urgent renovations of the building; to pay qualified lecturers; and to purchase teaching materials. There is also a huge amount of equipment needed.
We would like to build long term partnering relationships with sponsors and donors and to create a winwin situation wherever possible. The philosophy of the Karatara Project is that a "hand up" is better than a "handout". To this end they will endeavour, where workable, to provide a service or recognition or corporate responsibility credentials to those who assist us. Please let them know how you would like to get involved whether it is in the form of financial sponsorship, equipment donations, the provision of skills or labour or anything else.
All financial donations are handled by a charitable trust which has applied for Public Benefit Organisation status. Anyone requiring more information on the trust or trustees can request it using the e-mail addresses provided. Eden Campus Proprietary Limited is a non-profit company registered in terms of section 21 of the Companies Act.
Please call if you have any queries or if you are interested in coming to see the incredible miracle taking place here in Karatara.