ISASA schools in Swaziland

Enjabulweni Independent School.

The kingdom of Swaziland is the smallest country in the southern Africa, bordered by South Africa and Mozambique.

Currently, it deals with social challenges like endemic poverty and one of the world’s worst Aids crises. The tiny kingdom is also known for its history dating back to the early Stone Age and for its absolute monarchy (one of the oldest in Africa).

Additionally, Swaziland is known for its great beauty, civility and general peacefulness; reflected in the word Enjabulweni, a siSwati word meaning ‘place of happiness’. What better name for a school founded in 1988 and situated on a campus on the outskirts of Manzini in the small kingdom of Swaziland.

Principal Wayne Talbot can attest to the name’s appropriateness, providing as it does, a home-away-from-home for children from diverse cultures and nationalities in an environment that includes a wildlife sanctuary. “In the primary school, our mission is to provide quality education to each of our 270 pupils in grades 1 to 7 in this unique, tranquil setting,” affirms Talbot.

Entrenched in a community that values care

“The school came from the community and we remain entrenched in the community,” he continues, explaining this tightly-knit relationship that sees Enjabulweni Independent School grow vegetables for a local Care Point, and connect regularly with the nearby orphanages, a juvenile prison, and local churches and sport teams from other education institutions that use its facilities.

The sense of interconnectedness spills over daily into Enjabulweni itself, as teachers remind students that they are valued. “We are proud to produce young people of substance, who, because of their experience here, will go out into the world armed with academic competence, cultural respect and all-round confidence,” smiles Talbot as he outlines the school’s rigorous yet creative teaching and learning programmes. Teachers who’ve worked around the world before calling Enjabulweni home are complemented by the on-campus presence of an occupational therapist, a speech and language therapist and an audiologist who monitor each child’s daily progress and are on hand to iron out possible problems. There’s also a further group of students with special needs in the Learning Centre benefitting from this expert attention.

Rigorous academics and ‘fervent’ support for extra-curriculars

Days at this school are full and busy. Recounts Kerry, a Foundation phase pupil: “We start the day just before 08:00 and after we pray together and sing the Swazi national anthem, we hand in our homework and start our handwriting. Our teacher says writing exercises calm us down but after that we do Maths which is really difficult. We normally eat our lunch in class before break. We sometimes play on the field but love playing on the new jungle gym which has a pirate’s flag.

“After break we have reading, computer literacy and life skills classes. After lunch we have to either go to sport or prep classes until 14:00.”

Pupils in the senior primary phase will spend more time on core subjects like languages (a choice of three is available here: French, siSwati or Afrikaans) and mathematics, and on non-core subjects like library skills, art, and computer literacy. “The interactive whiteboards to be found in almost every second classroom bring the outside world into the classroom,” says Talbot.

Enjabulweni follows the South African national school curriculum and, adds Talbot, as teachers become more confident with them, is also gradually introducing the new Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) designed by the South African Department of Basic Education. “Another way for us to monitor our progress is through the writing of the International Benchmarking Tests (ACER IBT) by our Grade 6 pupils. In 2011, two of our pupils received certificates of distinction and were recognised as top global performers in these tests.”

If Talbot were to choose a word to describe how his young students feel about sport and extra-curricular activities, he says it would be ‘fervent’. “It describes quite accurately the way our pupils throw themselves into rounders, badminton, swimming and cricket, for example, as well as chess and marimbas. They also approach the extra academic support offered in the afternoons with the same enthusiasm.”

Confirms deputy principal Hamann, “At Enjabulweni Independent Primary School we are always looking for innovative ways to pass on important life lessons. We join together to learn about different types of learners on Autism Day, and mark a pink Friday to show our support for the fight against breast cancer.”

IQAA quality assurance helpful

Retaining an independent status, and belonging to ISASA is particularly meaningful for schools in our neighbouring countries. Talbot says a recent Independent Quality Assurance Agency (IQAA) audit – a requirement for all ISASA member schools – was useful in helping him and his staff formulate a mid-term strategic plan. “We envision more Foundation phase classrooms, a new library and computer room for young learners, an audio-visual lecture facility, canteen and tuck shop, a multipurpose hall to accommodate concerts, and indoor sports and a Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) regulation swimming pool.

“We’ll also continue to source the very best academic and emotional development and support programmes for our students.”

Traditional opinions challenged as more schools emerge

Even a school called ‘place of happiness’ faces challenges, about which Talbot is candid. “The concepts of learning through discovery and play and instilling discipline without corporal punishment are new to many families in this area who cling to traditional customs. To try and change old ways of doing things and even growing our use of technology continues to require a steady effort. We constantly need to justify and prove before new ideas are accepted, especially by the elders. Preconceptions about the importance of primary education need to be challenged as a good foundation sets the tone for future education in so many different ways.”

Perhaps, muses Talbot, this battle will become easier sooner rather than later. He says he’s not at all surprised to learn that more and more early childhood learning institutions are joining ISASA every year, outstripping the number of high school equivalents. “We have noticed a marked increase in the amount of pre-schools popping up in this area. Obviously some are better equipped and have better trained staff than others, but just having more schools around is in most cases a positive step in the right direction to improving children’s ability to cope in a school social setting. We try to work closely with our feeder schools to prepare the children for Grade 1 here at Enjabulweni. Working with these schools to help them identify very children with special needs is crucial.”

Building ties with other ISASA member schools is also important. “Here in Swaziland, we are far enough apart not to really be competition for each other. This enables us to discuss problems, issues and successes in a positive way. We also participate against each other in sporting and other interschool competitions.”

Support key to happiness

It’s difficult to call a halt to such a fascinating conversation, but halt we must, and Talbot sums up what makes Enjabulweni so special. “Because Swaziland – and particularly Manzini – is so small, the school is very involved in the pupils’ personal lives. Everybody responds when help is needed. “When a few of our pupils were recently involved in a car accident, the hospital waiting room was full of well-wishers. And when one of our founding teachers battled against cancer, love and care overflowed.

“I believe this ethos of care is what makes many of our students decide to go on to Enjabulweni High School. Sharing both joys and heartaches make Enjabulweni our ‘place of happiness’.”

Category: Featured Articles, Winter 2012

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Comments (6)

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  1. Stephen Kamwana says:

    May you please avail me your e-mail address such that I may forward my CV and supporting papers as a teaching job seeker.

    Thank you.

  2. cedric Simelane says:

    Enjabulweni School in Swaziland, i just want to know if tourism is offered from which grades in the place of happiness

  3. Thabe Matsebatlela says:

    Dear Sir/Madam

    Do you offer accommodation in your dorms? May you kindly provide us with a 3 night accommodation quotation for 60 people arriving in Swaziland on 11 December 2015 and checking out on 14 December 2015.

    We can share rooms and we can also be grouped into larger groups

    Kind Regards

    Dr Thabe Matsebatlela
    University of Limpopo Chamber Choir
    +27152682337

  4. I am a jobseeker looking for a primary school vacancy.

  5. Pholile Precious Maeko says:

    I just like this school and wish to be an educator there!

  6. Pholile Precious Maeko says:

    This is the best school ever. wish to join them as a primary school educator soon.

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