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Talking ‘twinning’: a legacy of reaching out at St Andrew’s School for Girls

| October 30, 2013 | 0 Comments

By Karen Symons and Annette dos Santos

Not everyone can leave a lasting and meaningful legacy, but Frank Simmonds (headmaster and trustee 1990 to 2012), Gill Morris (director of outreach and board member 1990 to 1996) and Meg Grayer (librarian and the founding member of the mobile library in partnership with the Methodist Education Initiative) did just that at St Andrew’s School for Girls in Johannesburg.

Frank Simmonds made a decision in 1990 that would see the school community sharing its superb facilities and resources with school pupils from the Daveyton and Etwatwa area for the next 24 years. This partnership continues today under the banner of Ubambiswano. Although there has been a change of name, the true essence of sharing has remained the same – the name Ubambiswano itself means ‘working together in partnership’.

Cornerstone of programme’s success
The Daveyton Educational Programme (DEP), our Saturday School for Grade 6 to Grade 9 pupils, is one of the cornerstones of Ubambiswano’s success. The 96 pupils who benefit from this programme over a period of four years are selected on the basis of their academic ability, and come from the areas of Daveyton and Etwatwa. These young people attend school all week and then dedicate their Saturdays to attending yet ‘another day of school’ – this all to claim their right to a good education by supplementing the schooling they receive from their local schools. “Skilled for Life”, the St Andrew’s vision, applies to Ubambiswano too. Not only are core curriculum subjects covered, but further life skills of public speaking and swimming rank high on the priority list.

A drama organisation also provides drama workshops, and these prove to be enjoyable experiences for both pupils and the facilitators. Everyone is engaged as they perform their stories and play drama games. These pupils also have the services of a public speaking coach, who enters them in National Eisteddfod Academy (NEA) competitions and in the Dikonokono Arts and Culture Festival.1 Further skills are developed when pupils participate in challenging literature quizzes and spelling  competitions.

The St Andrew’s librarian and Communications Task Team help enormously by contributing additional books for pupils to read. These, in turn, are then donated to the Ekufundzeni mobile library2 once the competition is over. Further interest literature is enabled by invitations to visiting authors, who talk about their work and interests, and by pupils reading their books in preparation for the event.

Outside the classroom, pupils are exposed to sports coaching and, in particular, each pupil is taught to swim by qualified and dedicated swimming coaches. Pupils who have excelled on the DEP programme have been accepted into schools such as the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in Gauteng, while others have been offered scholarships to other prestigious schools.

Chaeli Campaign and the Tomorrow
Trust The DEP pupils also participate in the Chaeli Campaign3 and become Pay it Forward Ambassadors. The aim of this campaign is to empower children with disabilities. The objectives of the workshops on offer are to develop leadership, communication and entrepreneurial skills on one level, but also to promote tolerance, active citizenship and to assist other children in an inclusive environment in an understanding manner. The groups are made up of young pupils of whom half have a disability. These pupils from Grade 6 to 8 participate in 12 two-hour workshops, and will graduate from the programme as Pay it Forward Ambassadors.4 In partnership with the Tomorrow Trust,5 an academic programme is offered to Grade 10 to 12 pupils from Daveyton and schools in the Johannesburg East district. These pupils attend the Saturday and holiday school programmes.

Other organisations also involved in upliftment
And the good news continues after pupils graduate from Ubambiswano. The African Leadership Academy6 in Johannesburg extends invitations to Grade 11 and 12 pupils who display leadership potential to participate in its social innovation camps. Pupils are selected based on their ideas in the fields of business, education or technology. Clouddog7 runs leadership programmes for inner-city students from London, England, who partner with students from South Africa to explore the world of conservation and the environment over a period of three weeks in KwaZulu-Natal.

The pupils selected need to demonstrate their ability to contribute to their local community by undertaking to solve an environmental problem in their schools or community. Past Ubambiswano pupils have previously been selected and have been assigned to mentors at Credit Suisse/JP Morgan Stanley,8 who have overseen the implementation of the projects in their schools or communities. In an attempt to ensure we reach even further, Ubambiswano engages collaboratively and in partnership with Ekufundzeni. This initiative is made up of the Mobile Library – a bus filled with books that visits 29 schools in Daveyton and Etwatwa and provides teachers and pupils with access to quality reading and reference material on loan. In addition, there is the Reading Gogos Programme.9

The more than 50 ‘gogos’ who volunteer their skills, time and enthusiasm on a weekly basis have been successful in stimulating an interest in reading and in developing reading skills among foundation phase pupils. The Resource Centre, which was developed in a renovated warehouse at Daveyton Intermediate School, serves as a library for the learners at this school. They are encouraged to take out books, sit down and read in the centre, use the computer or play educational games. Support and training are also offered to educators and parents.

Whole school and community action
The St Andrew’s senior school pupils partner with Ubambiswano through serving on the Community Service Team. The junior girls contribute through collections, donations, the use of their classrooms and in the participation of drama workshops. The staff and parents assist through donations of their time and the support of fund-raising initiatives.

Two big annual events form part of the school’s calendar, and include a Saturday that sees the entire school community, Ubambiswano pupils and many outsiders take on a 5 km or 10 km eco-trail run/walk to the top of Linksfield Ridge behind St Andrew’s. This is further linked to the school’s initiative for Mandela Day, and 2013 sees an inaugural team entered in the Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenge (Ride for a Purpose).10 This event, in particular, is being used primarily to raise awareness about Ubambiswano. And this is the easy part of the partnership!

Living the legacy
The opportunities created by Ubambiswano for the St Andrew’s pupils and the pupils from Daveyton and Etwatwa schools will no doubt skill them for life. St Andrew’s School for Girls is a school that cares not only for its immediate community, but also for the communities around it. Every child has the opportunity to get involved in community service at some level in the school and, with strong and compassionate leadership from the teachers and sponsors, each project makes a difference in the lives of those it serves. It is hoped that the legacy of reaching out started by Frank Simmonds will be duplicated in many ways by the St Andrew’s girls and staff, as well as the pupils from Ubambiswano. 

Karen Symons is headmistress at St Andrew’s Junior School for Girls in Senderwood, Johannesburg. Annette dos Santos is social development coordinator for Ubambiswano.


1. The Dikonokono Arts and Culture Festival is the developmental project of the NEA. This project takes culture to the doorsteps of schools. Source:

2. Ekufundzeni, previously known as the Methodist Education Initiative, is an independent non-governmental organisation (NGO) operating since 1993 in the disadvantaged areas surrounding Benoni in Gauteng: Daveyton, Etwatwa and Wattville. Ekufundzeni operates in the education arena and comes from a desire to make a difference in education in disadvantaged public schools. A visit to local schools in 1992 highlighted the lack of libraries and books, and thus little or no culture of reading amongst the schools. This then became the NGO’s focus area. Source:

3. See, for example,

4. The Pay-It-Forward Ambassadors Programme grows social entrepreneurs between the ages of 10 and 14, focusing on leadership, networking and entrepreneurship skills that positively uplift the communities in which they live. Source:

5. The Tomorrow Trust provides a complete support programme that enables South Africa’s orphans and vulnerable children, who are in need of academic and psychosocial support to overcome shortfalls in the public education system, to reach self-sustainability and community-mindedness. Source:

6. The African Leadership Academy (see seeks to transform Africa by identifying, developing and connecting the next generation of African leaders. It will be featured in the next edition of Independent Education magazine.

7. Clouddog offers inner-city young people an intensive 12-month programme of personal development, skills acquisition and activity in environmental and conservation issues. Source:

8. JP Morgan Stanley is a leader in financial services, offering solutions to clients in more than 100 countries, with one of the most comprehensive global product platforms available. Source:

9. The Reading Gogos Programme is a group of people – by no means all gogos (the Zulu word for ‘granny’) – who volunteer for an hour or so each week at four schools in Daveyton, East Rand. Source:

10. See



Category: Summer 2013

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