Close to home: Dainfern College

| November 14, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Joanna Pettitt

In the first instalment of our series on ISASA schools on estates or in gated communities, we look at Dainfern College, in Johannesburg.

With safety an ongoing concern in South Africa, many families opt for the security of estate living, where they can enjoy recreational facilities such as restaurants, golf courses, nature trails, tennis and squash courts. These estates are in effect suburbs in their own right, where residents can socialise, shop and even work in the vicinity, while still enjoying the security of an estate environment. Dainfern College founders, Russell and Stella Upneck, lived on Dainfern Residential Golf Estate in northern Johannesburg. The ever-increasing nightmare of traffic congestion meant a long commute to schools for their children and they dreamed of a private co-educational school on their doorstep. This dream was realised when Dainfern College opened its doors in 1997 with just 35 pupils. Sixteen years later, the college has over 1100 pupils from Grade 0 through to Grade 12.

A sense of community

The school shares its name with the well-known Dainfern Residential Golf Estate, which often misleads people into thinking that the college is inside the estate itself. Dainfern College is in fact situated on Broadacres Drive, but shares boundaries and some access points with both Dainfern Golf Estate and Dainfern Valley. The gated communities of Dainfern Golf Estate, Dainfern Ridge, Dainfern Valley, Fernridge and The Fields are all accessed from Broadacres Drive, close enough for children to walk, cycle, or even come to school by golf cart without venturing onto the street.

The convenience of a top independent school close to home cannot be underestimated and some 75% of pupils at the school are drawn from the surrounding estates. This, combined with the fact that families tend to stay at Dainfern College, as the school is both co-educational and caters for children from Grade 0 to Grade 12, means there is therefore a very strong sense of community at the school as students and their families have so much in common.

Strong security

As on the estates, security is paramount at the college, which is fully walled with access controlled by security guards and security cameras throughout the campus. Security is a concern for foreign families too and international companies often provide their employees on contract in South Africa with accommodation in secure estates. Sine Thieme is mother to four children at Dainfern College: “We are an American ex-pat family,” she explains, “and when we first arrived in South Africa two years ago, we kept driving past Dainfern College and were so impressed with the facilities that we went for an interview to find out more about the school.”

Thieme blogs at http://joburgexpat.blogspot.com and says families coming to Johannesburg inevitably contact her for information. She is always happy to share her experiences and to recommend the school: “We know that when we go back to the States the kids might lose a bit of time because of the differences in the system but they are getting such a great all-round education at Dainfern College that we feel it’s more than worth it.”

A world of education

With about 12% of its pupils being non-South African, Dainfern College is experienced in assisting foreign families settle into the community as soon as possible, putting them in contact with agents to help with accommodation and study permit applications. Because foreign students join the school throughout the year, various measures are in place to help them and their parents adjust as soon as possible to their new environment, such as ‘buddies’, mentors and the new-parent support group. The mix of nationalities and cultures is wonderful to see and means that Dainfern College certainly lives up to its motto of ‘A World of Education – an Education for the World’!

Category: Summer 2012

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