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LEAP 4 Diepsloot joins ISASA

| September 4, 2017 | 0 Comments


Despite 22 years of democracy, in South Africa, approximately only 14% of learners who enter high school (Grade 8) will later obtain access to higher education.

To address this phenomenon, LEAP Science & Maths Schools work in some of the most economically and socially marginalised communities in South Africa to transform these communities through the meaningful education of children who live there. The core belief at LEAP Schools is that any child, no matter how impoverished their background, is capable of graduating from school and qualifying for higher education study, if given the right educational opportunity and support. The first LEAP Science and Maths no-fee school was started by experienced school teacher and former principal of Abbots College, John Gilmour, in January 2004.

It was housed in rented premises in Mowbray, Cape Town, in the Western Cape. Seven qualified teachers and one administrator were employed, and 72 high school learners were bused in daily from the township of Langa. LEAP grew, and schools serving the communities of Gugulethu/Crossroads (Western Cape) and Alexandra and Diepsloot (Gauteng) were started in 2007, 2008 and 2011 respectively. Two more schools – in Ga-Rankuwa (Gauteng) and Jane Furse (Limpopo) – were opened in 2012, bringing the number of LEAP high schools nationally to six fully functioning campuses with a total of 1035 learners in 2017.


LEAP 4 brought the LEAP model to Diepsloot, a sprawling township just outside Johannesburg. The students come from many cultures and speak predominantly Sepedi. The school offers isiZulu and Sepedi as home languages, along with English. Based in a converted warehouse, the school faces the infrastructure challenges so prevalent in informal communities. Nearby Dainfern College is LEAP 4’s privileged school partner. The Aveng Group,2 a market leader in steel, engineering, manufacturing, mining, concessions, public infrastructure and water treatment, based in Johannesburg and already a committed LEAP partner, is the founding supporter of LEAP 4. The school has managed to do better than most schools in the district, and the teachers are always striving to produce a higher matric pass rate than the state schools, as shown in Table 1 below.

Homegrown excellence

The principal of LEAP 4, James Malope, was born and raised in Honeydew in Johannesburg. He lived with his mother in a single shack. Malope received a bursary to study at Kingsway Primary School in the greater Johannesburg area, where he completed his primary school education. He performed well and was awarded a bursary from the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation (AGOF)3 to attend Cornerstone College in Pretoria, Gauteng, where he studied and boarded but felt excluded. A mentor from AGOF came across LEAP in Cape Town, and decided it would be a great opportunity for Malope, who then went on to complete his Grade 11 and Grade 12 years (finishing in 2007) at LEAP 1 in Cape Town. Malope then attended the University of the Western Cape to obtain his education degree, assisted by a bursary from Funza Lushaka.4 After Malope had gained valuable experience as a tutor at LEAP 1, Gilmour suggested that Malope assist with the establishment of LEAP 4 in Diepsloot, Gauteng, in 2011. He also taught life orientation and English. In 2015, he was asked to join the management team, and then worked as an instructional leader. From 1 July 2017, Malope took over the role of LEAP 4 school leader.

Seeking to spread excellence throughout the community

LEAP 4 students are from the community of Diepsloot, a high-need, disadvantaged community. The average household income is about R2 000 per month, and many parents/ guardians are either unemployed or employed as low-skilled workers, as they did not complete high school. LEAP Schools not only provides free high-quality education to students from such townships, but also aims for them to pass matric with results good enough to succeed at university and pass on to successful careers. “We aim for them to become leaders and agents of change in their communities,” says Malope. LEAP 4 students and staff are also very involved in the social development sites – such as crèches, old age homes and disability centres – in the communities they serve. Twice per term, LEAP students and staff visit social development sites in their communities, where students may spend the day playing with children or reading to the elderly. Sometimes they plant a vegetable garden or distribute donated blankets and food.

Helping young students make the leap

Each LEAP School has a recruitment camp to which the Grade 7s of feeder primary schools in the relevant areas are invited. After some tests and an intense selection process, students are chosen to attend LEAP. LEAP works with high schools in the communities to compare best teaching practices. LEAP 4 will soon be hosting a teacher training workshop, and will invite teachers from other community schools to attend. LEAP 4 has a good relationship with Dainfern College, which is looking at ways that it can assist LEAP.

The LEAP educational intervention model

LEAP aims to address the educational deficit in South Africa’s under-resourced communities. To achieve this, LEAP has developed a community intervention model. Learners are drawn from the communities in which the schools operate and invest back into these communities through education, job creation and social upliftment activities. The LEAP educational intervention model has two main components:

• Academic: LEAP Schools have smaller classes in grades 8-12 to encourage accountability and help build relationships. LEAP has an extended nine-hour school day, offering a full curriculum of subjects. This approach is necessary to remedy primary school education deficits that the students manifest when they enter LEAP in Grade 8. Extra academic support is given during Saturday classes and holiday programmes. All LEAP schools place heavy emphasis on English, mathematics and science, which increases the choices learners have when accessing tertiary education.

• Emotional: Emotional skills are as important for career success as good academic results. LEAP’s life orientation (LO) initiative is a unique, values-based, personal development programme. It focuses on empowering young people to become role models, leaders and agents of change in their communities. The LO programme increases students’ self-awareness, as well as their capacity to reflect on their actions and make healthy life choices. It encourages the growth of personal resilience, integrity, open communication and confidence in any context.

Leaps of faith

As LEAP offers no-fee schooling and is a non-profit organisation, funding is sometimes a challenge. We maintain relationships with our funders and continue to seek new partners to contribute to our schools. LEAP 4 shares rented premises with a primary school and as it is based in a warehouse, noise levels are high and temperatures are not ideal. Aveng has offered to build a new school for LEAP 4, which will be ready for 2018. It will cater for most of the school’s needs and make the process of teaching and learning more successful. This initiative will cost Aveng R8 million and LEAP has committed to contributing R4 million.

ISASA’s principles aligned with LEAP goals

LEAP believes that to bring change to the South African education system, we need to work in partnership with other like-minded organisations, such as BRIDGE,5 which is a nonprofit organisation that drives collaboration and cooperation among stakeholders in education to increase their collective impact on the system. We work hard to convene communities of practice and to share knowledge, working practices and resources to improve the quality of teaching and learning in the country. We also believe that by being part of ISASA, we can change education and achieve more in education for this country. Our independent school status means that we are dependent on our own finances or donations and governance. It also means that we have to make sure that we improve the ways we teach all the time.

Prathna Naidoo is a relationship leader for LEAP Schools and James Malope is school leader of LEAP 4.

1. See, for example: CHE_South%20African%20higher%20education%20revie wed%20-%20electronic_0.pdf
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Category: spring 2017

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