Making the most of it: Amaria Combined School

| March 23, 2015 | 5 Comments

By John Maselesele

In 1996, the Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa dreamed of founding a Christian school for our children in the Vhembe district in Nzhelele Valley, Limpopo.

In 1997, the first pre-Grade R class was introduced. The interest from the community was overwhelming and soon we were running two classes: one for three-year-olds (the Tiny-tots class) and one for four-year-olds (the Elephants class). An old church building and dining hall served as classrooms.

Birth during a period of reform By the end of 1997, our Elephants class was ready to progress to Grade R. The church board felt that the school need to be registered with the Department of Education, which required that we provide three possible names. Amaria was preferred by the majority of board members. This name derives from 2 Chronicles 19:11 in the Bible. It is the name of the high priest who served during King Jehoshaphat’s period of reforms. The board felt that as South Africa was going through a period of reforms that directly impacted the education system, the transformation should take place under God’s guidance. Hence, Amaria was born and relocated to new premises in Matanda village in 2006.

There from the get-go

I trained as a teacher at the then-Makhado College of Education, achieved my Bachelor of Arts (BA) and BA Honours degrees through the University of South Africa (Unisa)1 and my education management qualification through what was then Rand Afrikaans University (RAU).2When the idea to found a school was discussed, I was already serving as a church board member. As an educator, I was asked by the community, together with other community members, to oversee the establishing of the school. I was involved in drafting all the policies and procedures required to run the school. As the school grew, it soon become clear that it required a manager. . I decided to resign my teaching post at a public school in 2003. In 2004, I took over the management of Amaria Combined School. The rest, as they say, is history.

Absent parents a pressing problem

Amaria is located in a deeply rural valley where the majority of the community members are poor, and the unemployment rate is very high. Apart from a few government employees such as policemen and women, nurses and educators who work in the village area, the majority of parents commute daily to nearby towns such as Thohoyandou and Makhado (Louise Trichardt), where they are employed. Some parents work in other provinces, mostly in Gauteng. This impacts negatively on the children, as most are left in the care of their grandparents, who are mostly illiterate. Most grandparents have no or very little education and, as such, effective parent-teacher engagement is compromised.

Keeping it clear and simple

At Amaria, we know and understand that we cannot please everybody. This understanding helped us in making our choice as far as the school curriculum is concerned. Our curriculum offers only two streams of subjects: natural sciences (physics, chemistry and life sciences) and commercial (accounting, business studies and economics). These streams helped us to narrow our focus and put us in control of our curriculum.

Our staff members – both teaching and nonteaching – have strong work ethics. The contribution of each staff member towards the development of the school is valued and appreciated. This is demonstrated by the fact that each year all staff members have an outing together, where we just celebrate and bid one another farewell as we part for the Christmas holidays.

Our learners are taught to love their school, to respect one another and to keep their school clean. This creates a disciplined environment where teaching and learning can take place effectively. Many parents have confirmed the change in behaviour and attitude of their children since joining our school. Some parents simply felt they have to bring their children to our school because of its inviting environment.

Cordial collaboration and care

We enjoy a cordial relationship with our neighbouring schools. Competition is there, but so is collaboration. We do not compete for the admission of learners, as all the public schools around us are no-fee schools. While this may be seen as a threat to the survival of our school, it is actually not the case, as our learners come from different villages rather than just one village, and our academic performance has earned us respect from most schools.

Hunger and poverty are a daily experience for most people in our community. We cannot always admit all poverty-stricken learners, but we have started a programme with the nearby primary schools, whereby learners who are doing well academically but come from very poor families are admitted to our school after graduating from primary school. Our bursary scheme provides them with school uniforms and books, and pays their school fees.

Fiscal frustrations

Like many other institutions, we know we can never have enough money to get everything we want. There is never enough money. The most important challenge that we are still face is the building of a proper laboratory and a library. Right now, we use a portable laboratory for our science group. It is not a very good method of learning, but for the time being it suffices. Fortunately, plans are afoot for building a wellequipped laboratory this year, so that it can be ready for use in 2016.

ISASA’s input

My two dear friends, David Tshishivhiri (principal of Gondolikhethwa School) and Ratshibvumo Thivha (principal of Tshikevha School), played a very important role in helping our school to join ISASA. They introduced me to Lyn Nelson, ISASA’s then-regional director for the north-east region. What a blessing Nelson has been! She immediately became very interested in helping me, and visited me and we talked about a lot of things concerning the running of an independent school. Her experience as a former head of a school helped me a lot. Our school is not rich, and we therefore certainly did not believe we could afford to become a member of ISASA .But with Nelson’s assistance, today we are very proud to belong to ISASA.

Joining ISASA has helped a lot. I have developed both as a person and a manager. I believe I have become a better principal. The ISASA workshops, more especially the ones on governing an independent school, were very helpful. Being the principal of an independent school can sometimes be a very lonely job, but being a member of ISASA has given me a sense of belonging.

I remember that shortly after joining ISASA, we were busy building an ablution block when the thenexecutive director of ISASA, Jane Hofmeyr, visited our school and promised to help us. It was very comforting to know that even though we might be a small school, situated in a deep rural area, that ISASA cared! Last year, we had problems with water. Our school is situated in what appears to be a swamp that has dried out, but during rainy seasons the place easily becomes waterlogged. It was through Nelson that we were able to remedy the situation.

No excuses, only excellence!

In conclusion, I would like to say that our environment is not an excuse for not delivering the best quality education. Parents have trusted us with their children’s lives. That cannot and should never be taken lightly.

References:
1. See: http://www.unisa.ac.za/default.html.
2. RAU is now known as the University of Johannesburg. (Source: http://www.sahistory.org.za/dated-event/rand-afrikaans-university-established.)

Category: Autumn 2015, Featured Articles

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Comments (5)

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  1. Ramovha Mukovhe Shadrack says:

    Iyah! We come far. 😀

  2. leone tendie says:

    amaria its my belonging, that’s wher my family lies…im proud

  3. takie lynne says:

    its been quite sure a journey…As a 2016 matric pupil at Amaria,i declare that excellence is what we are.

  4. avhashoni managa says:

    i am an amarian and i recive the best education i hope people will come to amaria by these few words “Amaria is the best choice you will make for your children parent”

  5. Munashe says:

    Amaria Combined school is one of the best in Matanda,that u would like to attend….. so try it

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