Umtata Christian School

| September 10, 2012 | 42 Comments

Doing it for the African child.

By Mandla Higa

If schools stand as beacons of hope for their immediate communities and the nation, we should acknowledge their contextual differences as to where they are situated and the kind of the societies they serve.

Umtata Christian School is a faith-based school located in Mthatha in the former Transkei region of the Eastern Cape. It is part of the Rucc Christian Church,1 known as Rucc Ministries. The tagline ‘Doing it for the African child’ extends our mandate beyond our immediate school community, for whatever we achieve must also be achieved by those around us.

Changing family structures affect rural education Education in South Africa can be seen as a picture of highly successful schools that stand as lamps scattered around the country, with peripheral areas that are in darkness with regard to levels of illiteracy. The biggest challenge in our region is a growing population of very young children – the product of the high rate of teenage pregnancy in rural areas around Mthatha. The children are left by their teenage mothers and fathers to be taken care of by grandmothers.

In a recent newspaper article, Dr Max Price, the vice chancellor of the University of Cape Town, made these assertions:

…the performance of students is affected by the educational experience of their parents. The South African education system gives advantage to those with a good command of English. It favours those whose parents completed school – with maths and science as added advantages – and especially higher education, because it enables them to provide learning support to their children. For example, a mother who was subjected to the system of Bantu education might place a heightened emphasis on the value of education because of her deprived background, but may not always know how to assist, motivate and inspire a child to achieve an A aggregate. The attitudes of parents to their children’s scholastic performance may differ, based on the parents’ personal schooling experience – with far-reaching consequences. The parent who had advantaged schooling is generally more experienced and competent to assess whether a child is underperforming, might set clear expectations about achieving a few distinctions and intervene when difficulties occur. There is ample evidence that the unfairness of inferior education is perpetuated among the next generation.2

My question is: will we allow inferior education to be perpetuated among the next generation?

Early childhood development most critical time Co-authors Eric Atmore, Dylan Wray and Gillian Godsell have expanded discussion on the topic, saying:

Investment in early education of young children produces greater social, cognitive and economic returns than at any other stage in life, including secondary and tertiary education and the on-the-job training. Various international studies have shown that a quality early childhood development (ECD) programme increases achievement on cognitive test scores, decreases school grade repetition, reduces the need for costly remedial education, decreases involvement in juvenile crime and delinquency, increases school pass rates, increases the likelihood of being gainfully employed as an adult and, for young girls, decreases the likelihood of being pregnant while a teenager.3

Finding partners for preschool feeding scheme Umtata Christian School is affiliated to organisations at the cutting edge in educational matters, such as ISASA. This makes it possible for us to stand as a lamp in the midst of darkness; an opportunity to be the light.

We have thus embarked on a project to feed 3 085 preschool children in 97 preschools daily in Port St Johns, Libode, Mthatha and Mqanduli-Coffee Bay. We chose this project because early childhood is a critical developmental stage and these areas are marked by high levels of poverty, putting thousands of very young children at risk. We chose so many schools and children to feed because when we visited them, our hearts broke to see their plight, and we could not exclude them.

Don Phillips, senior pastor of Rucc Christian Church and also the owner of our school, happened to meet the Joint Aid Management (JAM) director on his travels around the country. Both are fellow members of the International Federation of Christian Churches. JAM is a non-governmental organisation involved in various poverty-fighting initiatives throughout Africa. Partnering with Joyce Meyer Ministries, it expressed an interest in our feeding scheme, and has provided much-needed funding. Its community development vision is also aligned with our mission statement. We signed a memorandum of understanding that stipulates that Umtata Christian School will meet the education needs of the children, while our partners will take care of feeding them. Together we agreed that by 2013 the number will be increased to 6 000 children.

Truckloads of ‘food nutrition’ bags – enough to last for three months – are brought down from Durban to Mthatha. The food is in the form of a highly nutritious porridge that is mixed with boiled water. Each preschool has a trained waitress who prepares the food daily for the kids. We have found that there is less absenteeism in the preschools when children receive a daily meal.

Creating accessible learning materials

It is not enough for us to feed the very young children in our communities. The school has also created learning materials for preschool practitioners, to make sure that quality preschool education is provided.

I was trained in Occupational Directed Education Training and Development Practices through the Education, Training and Development Practices Sector Education and Training Authority (ETDPSETA), and felt able to develop the material in conjunction with our ECD practitioners at Umtata Christian School.

We focused on the developmental stages of young children in the design of the learning material, which is available as a package comprising themes to be taught over four terms. In term one, we cover My Body and Summer; in term two, My Family and Autumn; term three, My Home and Winter; and in term four, My Environment and Spring. The Department of Social Development was instrumental in helping us target the preschools in our region that would benefit the most from these learning modules.

Feedback was quick to come: in one of the rural areas, several guardians and parents of Grade R learners compared the development of their children with siblings who had never been enrolled in school, and decided that quality ECD was important.

Our school curriculum committee meets each year to consider updates to the learning materials, and each month we hold cluster meetings with ECD practitioners to gather feedback. The school team also visits some of the preschools to monitor teaching and learning in action.

Local contexts for trained teachers

One of our key long-term aims is to involve ECD practitioners more actively in the design of future learning materials, which will include indigenous knowledge. For example, if teachers are busy in term four with the theme My Environment and Spring, and in that area aloe is a dominant plant, it must feature in classroom discussions.

When we initially visited preschools in our region, we found that many teachers were not properly trained. We contacted the ETDPSETA in this regard, and the organisation has played a major role in training 25 practitioners in its Level 4 ECD course.

As a school, we are in the process of developing our own Level 4 ECD qualification that will be customised for rural practitioners. We want the materials to help them speak to their own contexts as they develop children from broken family structures.

We hope to reach 6 000 young learners next year, and seek partnerships with other funders and institutions that want to assist with curriculum production, the financing of monitoring and support, skills development and the supply of toys and playground equipment.

Schools should be seen as community centres of knowledge and progress. They should transform from traditional inwardlooking organisations to adaptable institutions seeking opportunities to respond to the questions their immediate communities are asking.

References:

1. See, for example, http://www.ruccministries.org.za/RUCCMainSite/Home.aspx.

2. See, for example, http://www.uct.ac.za/usr/about/intro/transformation/2012/admissions_ policy_max_price_130112.pdf.

3. Du Preez, M. (ed.) (2011) Opinion Pieces by South African Thought Leaders. Johannesburg: Penguin Books.

Category: Spring 2012

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Comments (42)

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  1. andy says:

    Yes i like the idea of churhes who have an impact on communities . We can not run away from the illiteracy,teenage pregnancy, drug abuse this initiative by Rucc will assit us in educating and alleviate poverty.This initiative will help our kids to have better understanding of the true perfect world.

  2. Sixolile says:

    Hi

    Please upload lyrics of the school song as well as the school hymn.

    Thank you.

  3. I want to apply for my 5year old son turning 6 next year,but I want to know the cost.

  4. Bandla says:

    I have. A 7yr old wwith ASD and ADHD can u take him #desparate mom

  5. nokuthula says:

    Please send me full details of your school fees, registration if its a boarding schl or nt

  6. nokuthula says:

    Please send me full details of your school fees, registration if its a boarding schl or nt

  7. nozuko says:

    I want to know how much a fees and there is no discount for two children from same parent?

  8. nozuko says:

    please send me full details of your school fees,registration include all your expenses during the year

  9. I want to apply for my son for next year he is doing grade 11 this year. I also want to about your fees for next year.

  10. Tando says:

    I would like to apply for my daughter for next year, she will be doing grade 6.

  11. THANDAZILE ZIBEKO says:

    Could you please send me school fees and the application for my boy..

  12. Letsae says:

    I would like to know whether my son can be accepted into Grade 12 in 2017.He is currently in Grade 11 in a Chritian School in Brits, North West. I will be working at Mthatha.

  13. N.Fanaphi says:

    Kindly send the school fees and boarding fees . Would like to register a gr1 learner for R2017.

  14. ntomboxolo says:

    I am desperatly looking for a spacr for my 14 year old daughter she is in grade 8 now, please tell about annual fees and boarding fees

  15. kimberly says:

    Please send me application forms and school fees for grade 1 2017

  16. nthabiseng says:

    Hi
    I would like to know if this is a boarding facility.

    Regards
    nthabi

  17. Homba says:

    Hi!please send me your telephone number

  18. I would like to apply for my son he will be doing grade 9 please send me the fees all together please

  19. Modiehi Mokete says:

    Please send me application form and school bording fees for grade 3 learner 2017

  20. zanele says:

    Hai I would like to have the details of the school like Telephone email and how can I apply for next year please

  21. zanele says:

    Hai can you please help me with full details and contacts no of the school I need a place for my Son he will be doing grade 2 next year

    From Zanele

  22. Sarah says:

    Hi can you please assist with school fees costs, I would like to register a grade 1 learner and grade 6 learner for 2017. Please assist with application forms. Your respond would be highly appreciated.

  23. Tembeka says:

    Can you please email me school fees for grade 8 and when are applications open .Thank

  24. Yandisa says:

    I want to apply for my son hez 4 yrz plz send me all the cost from registration hostel please

  25. A N Silanda says:

    I realy need to apply for my daughter who is 14years this year.Can you please send me the application form and registration fees,my no 0810072384/0718811459,Postal address P.O Box 104 Viedgesville 5102

  26. Nosicelo says:

    can you please send me info about everything I want to apply for my sister’s son he is in grade 8

  27. Nosipho says:

    Hi

    can I please get more details about the boarding fees for a 12 year old going to grade 7

  28. Zisiwe says:

    I want to know the boarding school fees I wanna register for my boy next year.

  29. N Makana says:

    Good day , my son will be doing grade 6 next year .Could you please forward full admission details and application form Kind regards

  30. mrs n Phaqula says:

    can pls send the fees details for grd 4, 6&10

  31. NOBUHLOBO NDLALA says:

    Please send me the fees details for grade 8

  32. sino says:

    Can yu give me full details about fees

  33. Feza says:

    Please send me your fees i want my daughter to do her grade 9 with you next year..shes 13yrs now

  34. Masande Rani says:

    Good day kindly assist me with your application requirements and fee structure for new grade 1 learners for the academic year 2017 and other relevant information that might be useful to me

  35. Nwabisa says:

    Hi,

    Do you still have space for 2017?

  36. ziyanda says:

    How can I apply for my 6 years daughter she is going to do grade 2

  37. Zinzi says:

    Iwant to know about school &boarding fees for gr8 learner

  38. Patiwe Mntonintshi says:

    Hi

    I need help I need to advance my training of ECD as i did training at JHBat ASHA Assossiation.

  39. Cindy says:

    Hi I want to apply for my son is going to do grade 4 next year and I like to know about the fees for the whole year.
    Regards Cindy

  40. Dobe V N says:

    Hi l beg to apply for my son who is doing grade 4 this year please send me details of the school

  41. Masiviwe says:

    Can u please send me fees details for boarding school
    Grade 8

  42. sweetness Geca says:

    Hy am Sweetness who would like my child to come and learn in yo school.he wil be doing grade10 in 2018,where can i get application forms and fees please.

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