About the HCET

Lesley Osler with President Nelson Mandela

THE HANTAM COMMUNITY EDUCATION TRUST is a comprehensive educational and development project situated east of Colesberg in the Great Karoo.

Begun as a play school in a disused farm building 25 years ago, it has grown into an early learning centre, primary school and intermediate school, housed in a complex built on land donated by a local farmer.

The Trust utilises advanced educational methods, including innovative new approaches to achieving basic numeracy and literacy, and helps its learners to complete further education and training. It also manages community health and youth development programmes.

Community members play an active role in governing the Trust. It receives some state funding, but raises most of its funds from South African and international donors.

The project has won numerous awards, including the State President’s Award for Community Initiative in the Northern Cape.

main school building at the hcet

Our mission

To educate and develop members of the local community within the framework provided by the South African Constitution.

To invest in human capital through education, training, skills acquisition, and health and community care.

To do everything possible to enhance the quality of life of all the people in this rural area.

Through our example of replicable models, to improve education and contribute to development more generally.

Our approach

The Karoo is an extremely deprived region, and many of its inhabitants are very poor and disadvantaged. Our goal is to break this cycle of poverty and disempowerment, and place individuals and families on a different development path.

We have learnt that development must be holistic; one cannot address aspects in isolation and hope to succeed. Therefore, we have gradually expanded our activities until they encompass the education and development of children from birth through their formal education and training to the start of their working careers. We also support their families and others in the broader community. This is the only route to sustainable development.

Our ultimate goal is to help young people in this area to maximise their abilities, and become active and productive citizens. Besides benefiting themselves and their families, they also need to serve as role models, showing other young people that, if they are determined enough, they could also change their lives.

We also seek to inform education and development more widely by testing educational and other models that could be taken to scale. While we don’t necessarily believe our methods could be replicated everywhere else, we do believe they hold broader lessons for development in South Africa, and hope they will be of value to policy-makers and planners.


The Trust has won numerous awards, including the State President’s Award for Community Initiative in the Northern Cape (1997); the Community Builder of the Year Award for the Northern Cape (2005); the Ashoka Community Based Initiative Award (2006), and the Impumemelo Platinum Award (2010). We were particularly honoured to receive the State President’s Award from then State President Nelson Mandela at a ceremony in Cape Town.

hcet wins impumelelo award
Lesley Osler receives the Impumelelo Platinum Award at a ceremony in Johannesburg.