#wineforgood: Bottled Education at Du Toitskloof Wines

Wednesday, 3 April, 2019
Izak de Vries
Wifi in every classroom? Yes. Data projector in every classroom? Yes. Massive computer lab with internet access and educational software? Yes. Free, nutritious meals every day? Yes. On-site medical facility? Yes. Library? Yes. Two of them. Low teacher-pupil ratio? Yes. Stunning mountain views in between the rural vineyards? Yes. Keen to send your child? No, you cannot really.

This school is run by farmworkers for the benefit of their children, as are the three crèches feeding it.

Fair play due to Fairtrade

Du Toitskloof Wines is Fairtrade accredited, which means that for every bottle of wine sold into the export market, a premium gets paid to a collective that benefits the workers. In 2016 alone more than R4 million was paid to this collective. These funds are managed by the workers themselves. A large proportion of it goes towards education, which means that these working-class children now have opportunities that rival those from upper-middle class homes in the suburbs.

These farmworkers also send their children on to secondary-school education in town and they provide scholarships to the kids who qualify for tertiary education. Transport to and from school is provided and there is money for sports and educational tours as well.

In 2005, Du Toitskloof Wines was one of the first wineries in South Africa to get accreditation from Fairtrade; today it is punted as the largest Fairtrade social responsibility project in the wine industry in the world.

Not only does the exclusive Fairtrade badge mean that workers are getting fair salaries and have decent working conditions, it also means that the workers and their families are direct beneficiaries of their own produce. Running and maintaining the school and crèches are expensive, but since the workers get a few million rand per annum, they have been empowered to provide excellence to their children.

The workers themselves benefit too. The collective, managed by the workers of Du Toitskloof Wines, also provides a mobile clinic, literacy projects for adults and decent housing.

Initial accreditation is tough, and expensive. Each one of the 22 producing farms and the cellar has had to open their farms to inspectors and their accounts to auditors, and they had to commit to ongoing inspections in order keep their accreditation. No more than eighteen months go by between audits and if one of the 22 farms or the cellar fails, the entire collective loses its Fairtrade certification.

The workers go for regular medical check-ups as part of the accreditation process. A professional nurse is on duty during the week; any farmworker or a family member has access to her. Visits to the clinic are free and no one visiting is penalised for not being at work.

Tienie Smith is the compliance officer for Du Toitskloof Wines. He used to own a farm, but after selling it he is in the full-time employ of the collective – he now works for the workers who have once worked for him.

Tienie’s enthusiasm for the collective was contagious. He he took me on a tour of the school and one of the crèches, before giving me the freedom to investigate and speak to anyone I found.

We were mobbed by the kids. There is no doubt that Tienie is much loved. Even the older kids go out of their way to high-five him, the young ones simply run up for a conversation, a hug, or to ask “Oom Tienie” to play with them. Some of the smaller kids insisted on a “baby five”.

Three crèches

Even the little ones are looked after. I was taken to one of three crèches run by the collective and I had to chuckle: The little ones had been playing outside and they were dirty. My son would have looked the same at that age.

The personnel had clearly received training and a programme provides structure to the little one’s day.

Hygiene forms an important part of the programme and the children's toothbrushes are on proud display.

Apart from that, there is ample free space, which is carefully fenced in, for the little ones to run around, sand to play in, a jungle gym and swings to play on.

Upgrading the primary school

I started my own education in a small farm school consisting of three prefab classrooms where three teachers, which included the headmaster, taught seven grades.

Ditto, once, for the little school near Du Toitskloof Wines. For many years the facility consisted of an old church, which is still in use, and two prefab classrooms.

A considerable amount of money was spent on the school. Every grade now has an own classroom, plus an extra classroom was built for Grade R, the formal preschool year. In every classroom there is a qualified teacher.

Today the school’s facilities rival those of the private school my son attends.

Education beyond the community

After completing their primary education, the children go to a secondary school in town. The collective pays for that too. Depending on the children’s needs, they get go to Goudini High, Breëriver Secondary or Worcester Secondary. The collective, being proud parents, recently donated money to help with upgrades at these schools.

Tertiary studies in South Africa are expensive, but no less than six students are presently studying at a number of institutions, their studies are all paid for by the collective.

Yet, there is more.

Paying for the less privileged

The workers benefiting from the Du Toitskloof Wines’ Fairtrade status spend a large part of their annual income on running and maintaining a mobile library that benefits eight less-privileged schools in the valley.

The mobile library, fitted with computers and internet access, has been built into a trailer hooked on to a Mercedes Benz truck. The farm workers pay for a part of its maintenance, and yet their own kids only see this truck once every two weeks. On the other days the truck visits communities outside the Du Toitskloof Fairtrade Initiative which have fewer resources.



There are plenty of good news stories about upliftment and transformation in the South African Wine Industry. This #wineforgood website, launched by wine.co.za in June 2016, hosts all the positive stories from the winelands, of which there are plenty. wine.co.za has made April a focus for #wineforgood stories, being Freedom Month, as South Africa celebrates 25 years of democracy.
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