South Africa’s youngest ambassadors thrive in the heart of KwaZulu-Natal

| April 10, 2018 | 0 Comments

BY ANNETTE DE BEER

On 1 July 2013, one of founder Annette de Beer’s dreams came true when Little Ambassadors’ College (LAC) opened its doors for the first time in the heart of Pietermaritzburg, in KwaZulu-Natal.

De Beer had long seen the need for upmarket education close to the city’s central business district. In partnership with others, she was able to purchase the old and then dilapidated Ansonia Hotel and convert its front into a junior school, catering to pupils from Grade RRR to Grade 3.

LAC’s location is significant, as it has breathed life into the old city centre. It is located next door to the Roman Catholic Cathedral and its Tudor-style buildings, wherein ring the laughter of Africa’s children, are all heritage buildings and, as such, are protected by Amafa laws.1 Interestingly, because of its origins, the school’s classrooms are all abnormally large. Unfortunately, there is limited space outside for playing fields, due to the school’s urban location.

Steady growth

There are 90 “little ambassadors” in total, split into classes of a maximum of 20 students each. Parents are generally employed in government positions and affluent private sector businesses.

Says De Beer: “The school started in the middle of 2013 with 11 students, and grew to 35 students in 2014 and 58 students in 2015. Due to parent demand, we also added a Grade 1 class in 2015.

“In 2016 and 2017, grades 2 and 3 were added and the college now has 90 students. We anticipate that with the rollover from Grade R and Grade 1 into grades 2 and 3, the college should reach its full potential of 110 to 120 students in 2018.”

LAC’s board is currently looking for additional space to develop a fully-fledged primary college, catering from Grade RRR to Grade 7.

Meanwhile, the college has a staff component of 17 members, including a principal, two heads of department and administrative and cleaning staff. “The principal, Peter de Beer, is also the owner of the college. Its board is located in Johannesburg,” explains De Beer.

Academic curriculum

 

According to De Beer, LAC utilises the national Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS),2 to which it has added the following subjects:

 1. Computers and chess:

The 20-unit computer centre provides online access to both staff and students. The same centre is also used to teach checkers and chess to all LAC students.

 2. Cooking:

The school’s Master Chef centre is used every second week, so that each LAC student learns how to cook and bake.

 3. Special sciences:

Whilst most South African students learn science, LAC’s cutting-edge science centre is the site of many an exciting experiment.

The external curriculum

De Beer is also proud of the external curriculum at LAC. “It operates through our Special Programmes School (SPS), which operates from 13:30 until 17:00 daily. Parents may choose whether their child attends the SPS. At the moment, 90% of the college attends the SPS. There, they will learn team activities, traditional games and creative arts.”

All SPS programmes are multifaceted: the creative arts, for example, comprises a dance school (professional trainers teach special ballroom dance and hip-hop), a ballet school (professional ballet teachers teach all grades) and a drama school (here, too, students learn from the very best).

“In order to become excellent swimmers, all our students are transported to an Olympic-sized pool approximately 1 km from our main campus, while service provider Soccercise Starz3 is in charge of providing access to this particularly popular sport,” says De Beer.

ISASA and independence

The college is a 100% B-BBEE company4 and gets additional funding from private sector initiatives. “LAC does not compete with other schools,” says De Beer. “Because we are a junior college, we favour fun, play and intense learning over competition.”

De Beer says it was a strategic move to join ISASA in the fourth year of LAC’s existence. “The board decided that the college must grow at its own pace, must make its mark in the community and add value to people’s lives.

“Only when all the right values were in place was it the right time to join ISASA. That time was reached in June 2017.

“We currently enjoy our ISASA membership. It exposes us to new strategies and integrates us with other educators. Becoming a member of ISASA was one of the best decisions our board has taken.”

In the future, says De Beer, LAC may franchise its model, perhaps opening branches in Johannesburg and Pretoria. At present, though, here in the heart of Pietermaritzburg, she concludes, “What makes this college unique are the people working and learning. We are all dedicated to our motto, ‘Touching young lives every day’.”

References:

1. Amafa Heritage KwaZulu-Natali is the provincial heritage conservationagency for KwaZulu-Natal. (Source: https://www.heritagekzn.co.za/)

2. See: http://www.education.gov.za/Curriculum/NationalCurriculumStatements GradesR-12.aspx

3. See: http://www.soccercise.co.za/

4. See: http://www.entrepreneurmag.co.za/advice/doing-business-in-sa/bee/whatis-bbbee/

Category: Autumn 2018

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