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From the editor

| September 5, 2012 | 0 Comments

In the Bible, in Luke 12:48 can be found a call to action: “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required.”

At this point in time when the future of so many South African children seems to be in jeopardy, it’s a phrase that bears repeating, notes Mamphela Ramphele on pages 22 and 23 of this issue of Independent Education. Ramphele, who witnessed how the historic march of 16 June 1976 prompted the start of the real struggle for equal education, has founded The Citizen Movement for Social Change (CMfSC), “inviting all South Africans to rise to their responsibilities”.

In particular, says this sensible and passionate activist, the CMfSC seeks “to promote innovations in education”. She notes that South Africa’s youngest average age is 24.9 years, and that “about 20% of our population is under 10 years old.”

ISASA’s own research indicates that the early childhood learning phase is the association’s fastest growing sector in terms of membership. Moreover, as can be seen in this issue of our magazine, many ISASA primary schools are not state-of-the-art institutions with the resources to provide the latest gadgets and gizmos to their students. To them, ‘not much has been given’.

Yet it’s clear that an independent status means more to these modest schools than merely choosing the right to fashion their own curricula, modes of instruction and methods of governance. On the contrary, many choose, on a daily basis and away from the glare of the media, to create and share – in sustainable ways – the innovations of which Ramphele speaks. They take seriously the merit of another familiar saying: “we cannot do everything, but we can do something, and that we will do.”

For example, Dihlabeng Christian School, in the eastern Free State, faces serious financial challenges. However, for the head and founder of this thriving rural primary school, Margaret Grant, interconnectivity is the recipe for long-term success. On page 35, she has the following inspirational message: “I want to help others start up small, family-type Christian schools in highpoverty areas in both this nation and elsewhere in Africa. I envisage that we will be able to share with those who wish to start similar schools both our successes, such as the training and empowerment of local people, and the many challenges we have faced, such as learning to work on a very tight budget.” In another rural area in the Eastern Cape, Mandla Higa, head of the Umtata Christian School, reports on page 40 that belonging to Rucc Ministries and to ISASA, “makes it possible for us to stand as a lamp in the midst of darkness; an opportunity to be the light.” Researching the main challenges facing very young children in his region – poverty, hunger and a lack of quality learning materials – he is working with other organisations to feed and educate over 3000 preschool learners. And Camphill School in Hermanus, details Elaine Davie on page 42, has, despite the odds, for the past 60 years, provided love, care, education and acceptance to generations of children from disadvantaged communities who have severe intellectual disabilities.

Faith plays a big part in compelling these schools to continue with their good work. It is also what enabled so many athletes to strive for glory at the recent Olympic Games in London. Yet, we ask in a special report on page 62, is ‘going for gold’ the most important part of school sport? In a frank discussion, sport instructors from a number of low-fee paying ISASA schools outline their innovative responses to the challenges they face in providing outdoor activities to students. Surmises Jessica Ross from Laerskool Nanaga Primary, “Focus on what you have! For children to…play sports, they only need enough space, sufficient equipment to share and passionate coaches to guide and encourage them.”

Innovation is happening in the public school sector too. On page 60, you will find Mark Willemse’s inspiring account of the genesis of the Knysna Sport School (KSS). Of this model based on coaches that travel to children in high-poverty areas, he says, “Lack of facilities and resources do not afford less fortunate schools the luxury of basic sport programmes. I believe that government could utilise the KSS model…”

We’re in total agreement with Willemse, and have also included in this issue other innovative models that are being used to alleviate problems germane to South African schools and education. On page 74, for instance, we feature the Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy’s Bridges to the Future Initiative, and on page 24, TEACH SA ambassadors, whose contribution is founded on the premise, says mentor Peter Glover, “Enough of waiting for grand analyses to turn into turnaround plans based on elaborate roll-outs; let’s do something less ambitious, but practical and direct…and let’s do it now.”

The same sense of urgency should compel us all to positive action, to our daily 67 minutes of nation building. “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required.”

Category: Regular Columns, Spring 2012

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