Creativity in Kokstad

| November 26, 2018 | 0 Comments

BY NADINE WOLHUTER

At the foot of Mount Currie, surrounded by the rolling green hills of the Southern Drakensberg, you will find the small town of Kokstad.

The wilderness of the Eastern Cape, in all its underdeveloped glory, is a stone’s throw away from the town. In this little town, which is a hub of economic activity and provision of services for people from East Griqualand and the Eastern Cape, you will find JENS Primary School. Two old homes have been converted into classrooms, and house the two sections of the school: grades R–2 and grades 3–7. The massive rooms, wooden floors, enclosed verandas and wide passages create a perfect environment for learning to take place.

From 20 learners to a formally accredited institution

In 2001, Jen Ciro saw the need for a school in the community that would afford the necessary bridging for learners who were being turned away by established schools due to poor performance (or lack of space, or due to the fact that they were too expensive). The school later adopted the acronym “JENS” ( Jesus Equips, Nurtures and Saves), in her honour as the founder, and as a constant reminder of the Christian principles underlying the school. From a modest total number of 20 learners in 2001, the school cohort has grown to 230 learners in 2018. As the school has grown, its initial role of providing bridging schooling for learners in need has diversified, and the school now aims to equip learners with a sound academic foundation and knowledge in all fields required for them to enter any school, at any grade and to be able to complete high school successfully. Colour-coded files line the walls of the principal’s office, each filled with the recorded policy and procedures that dictate the running of the school. The evidence of the practice of these policies and procedures was submitted to Umalusi, the Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training.1We now await a site visit from Umalusi officials.

Passionate life and learning

Shrieks of laughter can be heard as Grade R learners swing high and low and clamber up and down the jungle gyms, or balance carefully as they walk across the obstacles set out for them in their newly upgraded playground. The giant oak tree in the front of the school wears its limegreen summer outfit proudly. In the cool shade of its outstretched arms, Grade 3 learners gather, each with a reader in their hands, eager to find out what happens in the next chapter of their story. However, not every JENS learner previously had their right to learn to read realised at their old schools. Identified learners of concern are enrolled in a remedial reading programme at JENS, and the delight on the face of a child who makes sense of the scribbles on the paper before them for the first time, is magical! Heritage Day is a true celebration at JENS Primary School. Traditional beads and vibrant colours adorn the learners on this day. Each learner has a story to share: whose beads she has on, or how Mommy wore the “doek” (headwear) she is wearing at her wedding. Boys seem to grow a head taller as they wear their traditional headdress with pride.

Recognition of prior learning

JENS Primary School acknowledges that the ability to acquire understanding and skills is not age specific, but rather a developmental process. The understanding and expression of understanding is dependent on the learner having the necessary vocabulary. Higher order cognitive understanding can only develop with a sound foundation of lower and medium order cognitive understanding. Learners who were not yet developmentally ready when content and skills were presented to them for the first time, must be given another opportunity to be exposed to foundation knowledge. Knowledge is not subject specific, but is integrated across all aspects of the school curriculum. As the school has developed, the acquisition of resources has allowed for diverse teaching styles to take place within the classroom environment, meeting the needs of the learners’ different learning styles.

PowerPoint, soccer and netball all favourites

In today’s digital world, an education would not be complete without an introduction to computer skills. The initial clumsy manipulation of the mouse by Grade 3 learners culminates in a confident PowerPoint presentation by Grade 7 learners. The 10 computers at the school have proven to be a valuable resource to both the learners and educators. Students are taught research skills through supervised internet access. Concepts taught in class are consolidated through various activities performed on the computers. When football World Cup fever seduced all South Africans in 2010, soccer was introduced at JENS as a boys’ sport. Netball for the girls was introduced in the same year. Since many of the learners travel far every day, the school timetable was lengthened to include sport during school hours. Each Tuesday and Thursday end in an audible excitement and anticipation of some outside physical activity. With the focus on enjoyment, participation and sportsmanship, the learners’ skills and understanding of the various sport codes have developed quickly and the school now enjoys competitive matches against neighbouring schools in Kokstad. When we received an invitation from a neighbouring high school to take part in its evening athletics event, the disciplines of sprints and relays were introduced into the JENS third term extracurricular programme. This recurring evening event has proven to be a highlight for the learners as, for some of them, this would be the first time to compete on a circular track, running in their very own lane.

JENS famous for its musical extravaganzas

The innate ability of the learners to move rhythmically, sing and create has resulted in powerful drama productions over the years. Learners are encouraged to question the environment around them in positive, respectful and socially acceptable ways. In 2010, in “The Final Countdown”, the learners very aptly communicated to the community the need to look after our beautiful world. The passion of the learners was tangible. In 2012, a moving performance, “Too Cool to Rule!”, depicted the importance of responsible leadership. Members of the audience were enthralled by the learners’ talents as their beautiful voices sang of “An African Dream” on another occasion. In 2014, our Grade R, 1 and 2 learners enthusiastically took part in our musical, “Put a Little Love in your Heart”. The children sang songs relating to the greatest commandment in the Bible: love. The theme, as suggested by the title of the play, was for each person to love and to pass their love on to others. “The True Meaning of Christmas”, a concert put on by the learners at the end of 2015, left parents and visitors with warm hearts and a renewed focus on Christmas, which was just around the corner.

A sensible stance that leads to ISASA

JENS Primary School values and understands the need to stay up to date with trends in education, as well as the need to identify and overcome obstacles that face all schools in South Africa. It is for this reason that the school has become affiliated to ISASA. We hope to work with and learn from schools that face similar challenges, grow in knowledge and confidence in what we offer, maximise the use of our resources and continue to develop as an institution offering quality education to its learners.

Nadine Wolhuter is one of the principals at JENS Primary School.

Reference:
1. See: http://www.umalusi.org.za/

Category: Summer 2018

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