Our Afrikaans place in the sun: Hluhluwe Privaatskool – a dual-medium ISASA school in KwaZulu-Natal

| March 26, 2013 | 1 Comment

By Hluhluwe Staff

Nestled in a rare sand forest, surrounded by pineapple fields in the False Bay area of Zululand, lies a quaint little school with unique character.

During the 1994–1997 era, independent (or private) schooling became the preferred option for many South African parents, as it gave them assurances that educational standards would be maintained and the cultural ethos of a school controlled by the school governing body, largely made up of the parents within the community that the school serves. Critical schooling aspects such as class size (pupil to teacher ratio), curriculum and extramural activities would also managed by the school governing body, rather than by the state, so parents were more comfortable with this system.

An Afrikaans independent school among the pineapples

The local community of Hluhluwe decided to start an Afrikaans independent school based on Christian values. The school began in a house on a game farm with 28 learners and three teachers. Five hectares on a pineapple farm (including two hectares of sand forest) were donated and the first phase, consisting of five classrooms and ablution facilities, was built. Funds and labour were donated by local farmers and community members to complete a second phase (two classrooms and a school hall) in 1997.

The local community has always been very involved in the school, maintaining its position as an unique place of learning upholding Afrikaner tradition and culture, while embracing change by admitting all races and encouraging them to participate in Afrikaans culture as well. The first learners, who hailed from the Mkuze area, travelled 70 km to and from school every day. They were driven to and from school by a mother who worked at the school, illustrating the dedication that has become commonplace among our parents. As word spread, learners living further afield began to attend Hluhluwe School and soon English, Indian, Zulu and Chinese learners were enrolled as well.

A move to inclusivity

In 2000, the school was approached by parents to consider a change from an Afrikaans-only to a dual-medium school to make it more inclusive. Although the governing body did not want to lose the Afrikaans ethos and character that had made it successful, the possibility of becoming a school for all learners in Hluhluwe was considered a great idea: it made economic sense and would bring different cultural groups together. After deliberation, the school accepted dual-medium status provided that the Afrikaans character of the school was not undermined. The Christian values of honesty, discipline and sharing were written into the school’s vision statement, which also committed the governing body to high standards and progressive and holistic learning. Criteria stipulated that both English and Afrikaans be taught as first languages and Afrikaans was adopted as the dominant teaching language, encouraging all children to learn it well.

Cultural and religious activities were made compulsory to ensure the development of common values. With the parents’ and the governing body’s approval, the school’s name was changed to Hluhluwe Privaatskool/Private School, an English verse was added to the school song and all the educational activities were made available in both languages. Although this adds to the workload of the staff, they have embraced the idea with enthusiasm. The success of incorporating English into an Afrikaans school is without a doubt attributable to their commitment.

Language, low fees and learner transport

English, Zulu, Indian and Chinese learners enrolled from Grade 00 (pre-primary) easily adapt to learning Afrikaans, but learners who enrol from Grade 4 onwards need to put in more effort to achieve the same standard. This is because language learning generally becomes more difficult with age. Older learners are assisted with extra lessons and take-home work, usually catching up within a year. Various extracurricular activities are organised, such as Afrikaans and English speech nights, to improve learners’ abilities in both languages.

Hluhluwe Privaatskool faces other challenges, one of which is keeping school fees as low as possible. The school has a subsidy scheme in place to help parents who qualify for financial assistance. Funds are mainly generated through fund raising, including an annual tiger fishing competition, a mountain bike race, a golf day and a hunting safari – all of which bring in revenue of over R200 000 per annum. In this way, the community helps the school overcome limitations caused by economic hardship.

Another ongoing challenge is the transport of learners, as they come from a wide area with great distances to cover. Our little Toyota Condor soon became too small to accommodate the growing numbers and a 60-seater bus was purchased. Now learners from as far as St Lucia (100 km away) are transported in luxury coaches to make the trip as comfortable as possible. The transport system is well-organised and has parents, mechanics and a security company on standby in case of emergencies. Buses are tracked on computer, the school receives SMS messages from certain points on the route, and each bus has a teacher on board to supervise. These steps safeguard the children across the long distances in isolated areas that they travel to get them to school safely.

Steady growth

Hluhluwe Privaatskool is expanding quickly since the governing body embraced the request to admit learners from different cultures and languages, such as Zulu and Chinese. A school started for only a few Afrikaans learners from the small village of Hluhluwe now services learners from the whole of Zululand. The Afrikaans language and culture that helped establish the school as a sought-after educational institution have been entrenched in the school management, vision and curriculum. The current ratio of English to Afrikaans learners is 50:50 – proof that parents and teachers have faith in our system. Hluhluwe Privaatskool is currently building a swimming pool and plans to expand facilities, at a cost of R1.5 million – all to serve the community by whom and for whom it was established. It is providing learners of all ages with more sports facilities and increased staff members and resources to serve the growing numbers.

A centre of excellence in a remote location

Hluhluwe Privaatskool is currently the only dual-medium school based on an Afrikaans ethos affiliated to ISASA in KwaZulu-Natal. We are also fully integrated into national and regional state educational structures. We are proud of our unique status, and have become a model for administrators and other principals to visit, giving them the opportunity to view our special learning place in the sun. The school’s inclusive policy, along with its Afrikaans character, has established it as a centre of excellence in an area often neglected due to its remote location. We see a great future ahead, with a vision that embraces all learners and parents – a special place in the Zululand bush, where ‘Every child comes first, every day’!

Category: Autumn 2013

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Comments (1)

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  1. Nadia de Bruyn says:

    Wie dit mag aangaan,

    My man is verplaas na die Noordkus (KZN).
    Ek is opsoek na n skool waar ek kan gaan skool hou in Afrikaans.
    U hulp word hoog op prys gestel.

    Dankie
    Nadia

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