From the editor

“You who are on the road, must have a code that you can live by,” sang folk group Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Treverton Schools Gap student Mpumelelo Dlomo epitomises this sentiment. With a group of peers, he recently hiked, biked and paddled close to 300 kilometres along the Mkomazi River in KwaZulu- Natal. In his moving account on page 60, he recounts the impact, both mental and physical, of the journey. “If you fall off your bicycle 100 times, get up 101 times”, is part of his new code.

Many ISASA schools are taking education outdoors, allowing their students to foster codes to live by. Billy Teeton from Woodridge Preparatory School in the Eastern Cape says on page 57 that the school’s annual triathlon “gives staff… a clear insight into the character… of each pupil”. Adds Nic Shaw, from Entabeni Education Centre in the Drakensberg, too many children today are denied access to natural spaces, for one, because adults fear risk. The decision, says Shaw on page 56, means that more and more young people “…are actively seeking risk in other, more harmful ways.”

On page 62, Nadine Clarke calls this “nature deficit disorder”, saying that a new quality of education can be delivered outdoors “by proactive networking with other educators, organisations and parents.”

This idea of extended teaching and learning networks is interwoven into this edition of the magazine. On page 10, for example, Phindile Lukhele- Olorunju, director of the Africa Institute of South Africa reminds us that “The Department of Education cannot survive on its own. It needs you and me, as parents. We must take our basic responsibilities of bringing up our children well seriously.”

Providing our children – and thereby parents and communities – with a code of honesty, compassion and perseverance in a national climate clouded by pessimism, is key to what Guy Hartley, writing from Merrifield Preparatory School and College in East London in the Eastern Cape, describes (page 28) as “contextualised leadership”. Rather than being sheltered from a brutal world, pupils at this school “are actively exposed to interpreting for themselves the diversity and complexity of an unfolding democracy from a wide store of knowledge and an objective paradigm”.

Hartley describes this code as “broad school leadership rooted in relevance [and] social consciousness” and it seems to be spreading, thanks to the work of organisations like Symphonia for South Africa. On page 30, you can read how founder Louise van Rhyn has, with her colleagues, generated 113 Partnerships for Possibility between business and public school leaders across the country to achieve large-scale change in the complex social systems that are our schools. A simple model, based on codes characterised by mutual respect and open discussion is evidence enough for van Rhyn that “We [all] need to work together” to face our education challenges.

A code that generates collaboration is also causing some Independent Schools Marketing Association (ISMA) members to put pen to paper. Inspired in part by the association’s recent national conference, Keryn House, from Waterfall College in Hillcrest, KwaZulu- Natal, writes on page 49 that the role of school marketers must change. “Marketing professionals,” she observes, “should… be initiating strategic conversations about new ways of doing things, relating not only to the competitiveness of the school or its rich heritage, but also its positioning in and relations with the community and the world.”

House advocates that schools make much more use of social media to spread messages about values that will lift up the entire education system in South Africa. Sugata Mitra, professor of technology in the UK, and recent visitor to our shores is on the same page, or cloud. On page 74, this winner of the 2013 TED Prize, expresses his desire to “spark creativity, curiosity and wonder in children”, based on his fascinating ‘hole-inthe- wall’ technology experiments in India and elsewhere. Adding his voice to the call for a new education code, he exhorts: “In this networked age, we need schools, not structured like factories, but like clouds. Join us up there.”

Mitra wants us all to “build the mental muscles of children worldwide”. He’d be excited to meet our youngest contributor to this edition of Independent Education, Neo Malope, head girl of Maseala Progressive Secondary School in Limpopo, who wrote of her own volition to tell us about her ISASAmember school (page 24). Explaining that she lives “in a community overwhelmed by illiteracy”, she declared her intention to be part of the solution. “My biggest dream is to see our youth stop sitting around and moaning about the things they cannot change… I hope to touch them through my book I am writing, titled The Journey to Life. To me, [being independent] means being able to stand firmly on my own two feet.”

Malope is a shining example of the kind of student Caroline Esterhuizen from Forres Preparatory School in Cape Town and her colleagues are trying to mould (page 44). She surmises: “We tend to stifle pride in our children. We [all] can do a lot more to encourage them to look with sparkling eyes on the world around them as they speak about their victories, both great and small.”

“Teach your children well,” said Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

Category: Regular Columns, Winter 2013

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