To open and run an independent school today is brave.
Will you be able to call yourself the school of choice in your area? Can you manage the increasingly complex raft of government’s legislative imperatives? Are you able to extract fees from parents in these “tight” economic times? (Turn to page 12 for a fascinating look at the issues around fees, written by ISASA’s executive director, Lebogang Montjane.)
Increasingly, schools in this country and beyond are realising the benefits of having an association such as ISASA at their side to handle such issues.
There is pleasing evidence in this edition of Independent Education that independent schools,
whether high-fee or low-fee, are proud of their achievements and independent status. So should they be, says a recent report issued by the Centre for Development and Enterprise, which states:
“[Independent schools] advance the right to basic education among other fundamental democratic rights, relieve the pressure of access faced by the public sector, save the government money, offer parents choice and access to quality education, and provide an environment for innovation that can inform all schools.”
Increasingly, heads and teachers are writing to us to tell the growing ISASA network about their particular “environment for innovation that can inform all schools”.
In the heart of Sandton, Johannesburg, Gauging, Angela Stephens reports (see page 20) that Sandton Junior School arose because of a lack of schools, whether government or private, in this densely populated area. This carefully planned school, says Stephens, “joined ISASA because membership enables us to benchmark ourselves against schools in the same category.”
Nearby Midrand, another rapidly expanding part of greater Johannesburg, is described by author Erik Immelman as a modern community where “many people feel isolated”. The Midrand Afrikaanse Akademie, which has been granted provisional ISASA membership, plans to be a “one-stop shop” for babies to matriculants, to provide families with a sense of connection. ISASA is helping this new school “find its feet”, says Immelmann.
And as far away as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Antoine Musemena Shabani says the Good Shepherd School has joined ISASA to reinforce a sense of national pride (“Congolity”) in its students, as well as a sense of being part of the world. “Our affiliation to ISASA gives hope to Congolese families and to foreign families who have settled here,” says Shabani on page 18.
On page 24, you can enjoy the story of established member King’s School in KwaZulu-Natal – where, says past parent and current Eco-schools coordinator, Eidin Griffin, “King’s children are not just au fait with the latest iPhone technology, but they can also show you where the chameleons live, quote Shakespeare, calculate water catchment from a rooftop and tell you what earthworms like to eat.” St Peter’s Prep in Gauteng (page 48) not only has a brand-new facility to inspire teaching and learning, but was driven to test a totally new system by outside forces – in this case, massive roadworks that impeded access to the school.
On page 56, you may be intrigued to find out why Michael Smith, a teacher at St David’s Marist Inanda in Johannesburg, insists that “a visual journal is potentially a more powerful educational tool than the iPad”. And few readers will be able to resist the innovative thinking of St Dunstan’s College coach Jaco Coetzer, who, on page 59, tells the story of rural rugby development in the Daveyton, Gauteng, area.
Many ISASA member schools rate networking with other institutions as one of the chief membership benefits. We hope that readers will join in two important conversations started on these pages. Donna Knott, on page 8, outlines the difficulty of retaining teachers in rural areas such as Fort Beaufort in the Eastern Cape, while on page 14, Andrew Stead entreats other schools to help keep that extraordinary institution, the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir School, alive.
Quality is hard to define, but you know it when you see it. Says our regular columnist, Bruce Pinnock, on page 95, of a lesson he taught that informed his career, “[I got] the balance right between teaching and learning.” Sylvester Msimanga, head of the Lesedi Waldorf School in deep rural Limpopo, puts it thus on page 39: “Being the only independent school among a lot of public schools comes with challenges, such as people not understanding our system. However, once they get to know our story… they hold us in high regard and the name of our school spreads.
“[We]… are accountable to the public, the South Africa Federation of Waldorf Schools, the Department of Education, the National Alliance of Independent Schools Association and… to our great pride, to ISASA.”