From the editor

| August 22, 2018 | 0 Comments

In 1983, the controversial feminist Gloria Steinem edited a collection called Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions (Holt Paperbacks, 1995). One of the contributing authors was Franklin A. Thomas, who wrote: “One day our descendants will think it incredible that we paid so much attention to things like the amount of melanin in our skin.”
I would like to think that this is the truth. However, it will only happen when and if all people, especially teachers, are deliberate in their work to transform themselves, their students and the school environment. Sandra Heidemann, Beth Menninga and Claire Chang, authors of the book The Thinking Teacher: A Framework for Intentional Teaching in the Early Childhood Classroom (Free Spirit Publishing, 2016), say: “An intentional teacher explores and values all the cultures children bring with them… he understands that unless he does this, he will not be providing optimal learning conditions for all the children.”
I like the word “intentional” in this context, for it’s a sad fact that although many schools proclaim to be as diverse and transformed as it’s possible to be, they overlook hurtful racial slights and thereby uphold institutionalised discrimination.
As the editor of Independent Education, I am thrilled by the sheer volume of stories that have flowed in about how ISASA schools are tackling transformation and diversity. These are schools that are “intentionally” dealing with these two very prickly issues. These schools are working every day to make sure that the wrongs of the past are dealt with and new growth mindsets are formed. Says Niels Birbaumer, author of Your Brain Knows More Than You Think (Scribe Publications, 2017):
Various experiments have shown that observational learning – learning that occurs through observing the behaviour of others – controls one of the most efficient learning processes, and that it is firmly embedded in specialised cells in the cerebrum.
There is one problem with this mechanism: our brains “mindlessly” copy anything that promises success and effect. This is why we must strive to maintain a democratic context to our lives, so that our [malleable] brains do not seduce us into acts of denunciation, murder and slaughter, as has so often been the case in history.
Lou Billet, chairperson of the board that governs African Angels Independent School just outside East London in the Eastern Cape, testifies to the power of transformational learning when she tells the remarkable story (page 20) of student Indiphile
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Velebayi, whose personal determination led to a scholarship at Diocesan School for Girls in Grahamstown, where she will continue to spread what she’s learnt about diversity and transformation.
The Vine School in Lansdowne, Cape Town, in the Western Cape, has expressed a formal commitment that reads in part: “We actively pursue diversity as an essential good.” You can read exactly how this thriving school keeps its promise on page 24.
At Beaulieu College in Gauteng, Andrew Brouard and Busisiwe Mavuso (page 36) write how an intensive transformation and diversity programme, which allows everyone’s voice to be heard, was sparked by an unwarranted event. The school now makes sure, via a number of platforms, that people’s histories, their pain and their hopes can direct the school’s progress. Springfield Convent School (page 53) is also forthright in highlighting how its history (and Principal Barbara Houghton’s own history) has led to dramatic shifts in the way students and staff perceive themselves and others.
On page 45, Deon Oerson, writing about St Benedict’s College in Bedfordview in Johannesburg, details what happened at a recent conference hosted by the school, entitled “Embrace”. Says Oerson, “The aim of the conference was to explore the many ways in which schools can transform through the promotion of social cohesion.” Knights Preparatory attended an ISASA Transformation and Diversity Workshop, reports teacher and parent, Tom Jordi, on page 47, and returned to school armed with a host of practical ways to revitalise its own transformation and diversity initiative.
At HeronBridge College, a security guard is now a teacher, as that community widened to include him (page 50); at Royal Drakensberg Primary School (page 57), young children have the chance to learn lessons to last a lifetime; and at St George’s Preparatory School in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape (page 60), St Stithians Girls’ Prep in Johannesburg (page 63) and Mokopane Destiny Academy in Limpopo (page 16), learning spaces, foundational principles and curricula have been aligned with each school’s commitment to equality.
I was bullied at school and it haunts me still. I hope that today’s hurt girls and boys are able to or will soon be able to come out of the shadows and flourish at schools. Speaking at a recent graduation, well-known peace activist, Nipun Mehta, said, “Unfortunately, the world you are inheriting is a bit wounded. But it’s nothing that your creativity can’t handle. You are our great hope to midwife humanity to its next plateau.”

Category: Winter 2018

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