Hope Preparatory School

| April 10, 2017 | 0 Comments

BY NIGEL RAW

My name is Nigel Raw and I am privileged to be the Head at Hope Preparatory School, located in East London, in the Eastern Cape.

It is my second year as Head. Prior to joining the Hope Schools family, I was teaching at a local government school. My position there was that of head of Grade 5 and class teacher. I have nine years teaching experience. This was split by a two-year stint in Turkey, where my wife and I served with a mission organisation called Operation Mobilisation.1

ISASA a solid support

I thoroughly loved my previous school, and still do. However, Hope Schools was and is a very exciting opportunity. All teachers want to make a difference and impact their learners’ lives in a positive manner. Here at Hope, we have an amazing opportunity to uplift the lives of those who have been neglected, rejected and forgotten. We not only provide them with an excellent education, but we also have an opportunity to impact their families and their communities with the love of Jesus Christ. This is a long-term vision, and we trust that we will be able to do this for many generations to come. We are delighted to have joined ISASA, as it provides many opportunities for the school to access a wealth of information, support and guidance. I would compare it to becoming part of a family. We now no longer operate in isolation, but more as a team. So far, we have been provided with advice relating to getting ready for a Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training (Umalusi)2 accreditation process, as well as legislative documents that pertain to independent schools and the Department of Education.

Our vision, mission and history

Our vision is that, through the love of Jesus, we want to see the brightest possible future for children who are infected, affected or orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Our mission is to achieve our vision by providing excellent education and holistic care for our children throughout their schooling years. Hope Preparatory School is a ministry of Sophumelela Centre Incorporated3 and is run by a voluntary board of governors. One of the goals of Sophumelela Centre’s Antiretroviral Clinic was to start a day care centre for children of the patients who attended the clinic, and so began Little Sparklers Educare in 2005, with just three children. From these humble beginnings, Little Sparklers Educare has grown to include Hope Preparatory School. Together, Hope Schools cares for over 200 learners from Grade 00 up to Grade 8, with Grade 8 commenced in 2017. Most of the children come from homes where the families live way below the poverty line. Johnson & Johnson4 has been very good to Hope Schools over a number of years. Not only did the company provide us with free serviced premises in the beginning, it also later signed a 99-year lease agreement that has allowed us to grow the school into the valley below the older existing building. In 2015, Johnson & Johnson officially handed over the land to Hope Educational Trust. We are now awaiting the official title deeds. This has given us access to 14 hectares of beautiful countryside to keep on expanding the school, so that we can achieve our first Grade 12 class by 2021.

How we work There are one of three categories that must be met to be eligible for enrolment at Hope Schools:

• a child is HIV positive

• a child is affected by HIV/ AIDS – i.e. a child has parent(s) who is/are HIV positive, or the parent(s) is/are deceased due to HIV/ AIDS

• a child is legally adopted or in legally placed foster care of an adult who is HIV positive.

We currently have 193 children at Hope Preparatory School in grades R– 8. We have nine dedicated teachers, a Head, nine support staff (drivers, cleaners, cooks and teacher aids), two administrators, a caretaker who lives on the property to ensure excellent security and, very importantly, a dedicated social worker. We also have regular volunteers. We are committed to providing a first-class, Christian education to all our children, employing committed, caring and compassionate teaching and support staff. Each school day, our children receive a cooked breakfast and cooked lunch, as well as two snacks. This ensures that they receive the nutrition they need to stay healthy and focused in class. Our children are fetched from and dropped off at their homes daily by our four bus drivers, to ensure they get to and from school safely. This also ensures a very high attendance rate.

Our dreams for Hope Schools

Hope Schools is committed to producing healthy, happy, hopeful children and giving them the skills and confidence to change their futures. We planned to grow by a grade a year, which we have achieved, and will continue that steady growth through to our first matriculating class in 2021. The building project is an exciting part of our development, and is totally reliant on funding from donors. Thanks to a successful fundraising campaign in 2014, we have built two of our proposed 10 new preparatory classrooms, collectively called the Freeman Block. In 2015, construction started on the next four classrooms and ablution block, which was completed in 2016. The administration block has also been completed. Next, we hope to start building a skills development centre for our college (Grade 8) as 2017 sees the introduction of our first college year. All learners will be given skills training.

Those who are academically able will complete their schooling, whilst the less academically able learners will be assured a job through partnering businesses as a result of this skills training. It is our goal not just to provide hope for the children, but for their families and, ultimately, the communities in which they live.

Our future vision is that we will only enrol children from one of four nearby communities (Duncan Village, Reeston, Scenery Park and Amalinda Forest). The reason for this is that the Sophumelela Centre organisation has restructured itself in such a way that we are able to provide a more comprehensive “wraparound” service for the families of the children who attend Hope Schools. Sophumelela Centre already has people trained to work with orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) in the communities. The OVC workers will work together with the school and Sophumelela to maximise the impact on our families. It is our goal to impact families right from birth, so that children come to school with as few barriers to learning as possible, and that they are able to make the best use of their fantastic education. It will also provide more feedback between the families and the school.

Our support system

Our school is a non-profit organisation. We are not in it to make money; we rely on the generosity of others to exist, and do an excellent job with what has been provided. We have a voluntary board of governors that oversees the school. Everything that we do is reliant on generous donations, since we receive as yet no financial subsidy from the Department of Education. Many of the local schools have been very generous to us and have donated some resources to us. One school has contributed to our feeding scheme over the last five years. Others have donated old books and stationery, and spoilt the learners with a small chocolate for Easter. Other principals have been wonderful in providing advice and allowing us to bounce ideas off them. East London is a small but friendly and helpful community. All of this generous support and good advice has allowed us to make the following improvements:

• The board agreed to allow us to decrease our class sizes from 25 to 20. The goal is to be able to provide more time per child with the teacher. It will also assist in improving discipline.

• We have employed five teacher aids (TAs) – in grades 1–3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. The TAs will work with groups of learners or individuals who need extra assistance, and provide the teachers with help as well.

• We have been provided with an English reading programme that the children use during computer lessons, to help improve their English.

• Each class now has access to the internet, so teachers can use this in their lessons should they wish to do so.

• We now have a school bell – this helps teachers keep track of time and pace of lessons.

• Annual National Assessment (ANA) results for 20155 showed that we were on par with the national averages and better than the provincial averages.

Challenges to conquer Whilst we joyously keep our “hope” alive, we must simultaneously take on the following challenges:

• Funding – this is a big concern. Donors are quite willing to give money to build a building, which is wonderful because we want to complete this amazing school. However, you need money to run a bigger and better school. A successful outcome of the Umalusi accreditation process will allow Hope School to apply for a state subsidy from the Eastern Cape Department of Education. To remain sustainable, we have launched a student sponsorship programme. This programme allows an individual, group, business, church, etc. the opportunity to sponsor the cost of a child’s education. The sponsor receives quarterly updates from the child and the school through their schooling years.

• Due to funding constraints, we cannot always buy what we need. At times, we have to wait for a donor. We have drawn up an extensive wish list that goes out to anyone interested.

• Our children often need extra support, such as seeing an occupational therapist, educational psychologist, counsellor or doctor. Our parents cannot afford it and do not have medical aid. We then phone around to see if we can find someone to provide that support, as the government is unable to assist.

• Homework is not done due to a lack of support at home. Our parents are unable to help their children. In conjunction with the OVC workers, we hope to set up homework clubs in the communities. Whatever lies in the future, now that we are an ISASA member, our hope burns more brightly than ever. 

References:
1. See: http://omsouthafrica.org/.
2. See: http://www.umalusi.org.za/.
3. See: http://www.sophumelela.org/.
4. See: http://www.fastmoving.co.za/fmcg-suppliers/johnson-johnson-
104/personal-health-care-55.
5. See: http://www.education.gov.za/Curriculum/Annual
NationalAssessments(ANA).aspx.

Category: Autumn 2017

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