In its pilot phase the SAHRC UCT Online High School Rural Initiative, set for the 2022 school calendar, is an important collaboration that will focus on the communities of the Valley of 1000 Hills, about 50 km northwest of Durban, in KwaZulu-Natal.

The Valley of 1000 Hills is plagued by high levels of poverty, with approximately 48-50% in unemployment rates, and limited access to quality education for the large majority. The area is also considered one of the major epicentres of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, with HIV infection rates as high as 40% or more in some communities in the area. The majority of the homes are informal dwellings, without adequate basic services such as water, sanitation and refuse removal – though a growing number now have electricity and piped water.

It is this fragile ecosystem that contributes to the general under nourishment, poor health, and emotional and physical insecurities plaguing the area. Many children have only one meal a day at school and are often deprived of the necessary resources to pursue quality education. Not only does a quality basic education offer a vital lifeline for their future, but it is also a fundamental basic human right, as chartered by the SAHRC Charter on Children’s Basic Education Rights (2012).

The pilot phase of this innovative partnership will facilitate access to a quality online high school education through the UCT Online High School for up to 14 students in the Valley of 1000 Hills.


It is of great symbolic significance that the ‘SAHRC UCT Online High School Rural Initiative’ should be launched in line with International Human Rights Day, on 10 December 2021. The theme for the 2021 Human Rights Day is “Equality: Reducing Inequalities, Advancing Human Rights”. This theme directly relates to Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which instructs that “All human beings are born free and are equal in dignity and rights.” Noting this theme, the Online High School Rural Initiative is in direct confrontation with impediments to equality. It is an intentional encounter with the continued historic, systematic and socio-economic conditions that contribute to the gendered challenges faced by girls in rural areas, in their quest for quality education.

“The UCT Online High School’s mission is to create new opportunities for learners throughout South Africa to choose an aspirational school regardless of their circumstances”, says Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, UCT Vice-Chancellor. “We are thrilled to collaborate with the SAHRC on this important initiative to level the playing field with an innovative education model, and create access to high quality schooling for all.”

The ‘SAHRC UCT Online High School Rural Initiative’ has a mission to promote equal access to basic education (particularly for the girl child); provide advocacy for online education; advocate for policy and legislative changes to promote online education and to ensure the most vulnerable are not left behind in the migration to online education.