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From the editor

While finalising the winter 2012 edition of Independent Education, I received a welcome compliment from Kathy Gau, all the way from Swaziland. “You really know how to make a story sing,” she said generously.

Gau’s comment is pertinent for three key reasons. Firstly, the arts in education is one of the major themes running through our current issue. Contributing to the national debate about job creation, on page 74, career development coach Joanne Wood considers how life orientation teachers in several ISASA schools are assisting students to couple a passion for the arts “with broader business skills…to ensure a profitable and fulfilling career”. On page 22, Jeffrey Sehume observes that South African curricula must “merge the humanities and the social sciences (HSS) and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)…this matter is made all the more crucial by the three million unemployed youth [in our country]”. Taking the theme further, on page 70, a number of music teachers at ISASA schools all over the country discuss the multiple benefits of music education, as well as what resource-strained schools can do to put a music programme in place.

Sehume also points to the capacity of the arts to remind us “what it means to be human” across a range of cultural contexts. On page 18, David Robertson, executive director of the Association of Independent Schools Queensland, Australia, puts it another way: “While each independent school may look and feel different…they all exercise freedom of choice, freedom of assembly, and freedom of worship.” The range of ISASA schools featured in this issue bears out these observations about different approaches to culture: for example, at the Pretoria Chinese School – our cover story on page 12 – students gather every day to benefit from a unique curriculum that includes learning traditional Mandarin and celebrating aspects of Chinese culture. Further north, at the Port Shepstone Islamic School – a valued low-fee ISASA school in KwaZulu-Natal – an alumnus expresses gratitude (page 28) for the cultural grounding she received as an integral part of her schooling: “Even the morning assembly…instilled in me enduring Islamic principles and made me proud of being Muslim.”

The second reason why Gau’s comment is apposite has to do with her location. A parent and co-founder of Hlanganani Primary School in Piggs Peak, Swaziland, she represents individuals all over the southern African region who, finding state schooling too restrictive, set out to start schools from scratch, and then looked to ISASA to support the right to be independent. The story of Gau’s – and her brave colleagues’ – adventure, represents the global ‘snapshot’ of schooling Independent Education takes for your reading pleasure in each issue.

Gau is a board member at Hlanganani, and this is the third reason for including her comment at the start of my message. Independent Education would like to urge other schools to add their governing body members to those in the education community who are taking out new subscriptions to our magazine.

This education community comprises other stakeholders as well. A second theme in this issue is school and university partnerships, and we are proud to feature on page 40, a look at a programme instituted by the University of Warwick. Involving three South African universities, the Warwick in Africa project seeks to assist maths and English students and teachers in 13 state schools across South Africa. Its success mirrors a statement made in the story on page 58 about the Three Crowns Rural School in the Lady Frere district of the Eastern Cape, which is running successfully on self-generated methane gas. Says journalist Lee Middleton: “The Three Crowns Rural School project is proof that innovative, sustainable partnerships between government, the private sector and civil society organisations do exist.”

Editing this magazine has shown me that it is often ISASA schools that spearhead sustainable partnerships of all kinds, and our third key theme in this issue is the emerging importance of outdoor education, described by Steve Carter, (page 48) as having “its roots in the experiential side of learning – in which formation, not ‘information’, is a key value. It is a way of rescuing learning from dark and dusty places and reawakening within students wonder – wonder at themselves, others and the natural environment.”

I hope this issue of Independent Education – resembling as it does an orchestra in which each distinctive instrument has its own song to sing – will reawaken some wonder in our readers about the diverse nature of independent schools in South Africa and their efforts to not only provide quality schooling to their own students, but to improve the lives of those around them. Mandla Mthembu, policy manager at ISASA, points out on page 17 that, “it is morally incumbent on all South Africans to work for social transformation.” Look to the arts for leadership, says Stephen Holder, head of music at Kingswood College: “It takes a long time to learn to play an instrument. You learn that by hanging in, by playing a little every day, that by contributing to the ensemble, the communal effort is improved, and that integration is not only possible, but deeply desirable and satisfying.”

Category: Regular Columns, Winter 2012

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