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The Mustard Seed Christian Academy: providing quality private education at an affordable rate

| November 27, 2018 | 0 Comments


My story begins 28 years ago, when I first began my teaching career at a little preschool called Lilliput in the south of Johannesburg.

Although the school was small, it was well run under the guidance of then-principal Valerie Kruger. During my time as a teacher, I studied and taught, allowing me to gain invaluable experience that would lay the foundation for my vision. I wanted to provide quality education and develop the minds of our country’s future leaders.

A daunting vision becomes an inspirational journey

In early 2002, when I was given an opportunity to purchase the school I had once taught at, I seized the opportunity – and so began my journey. For the next 13 years, I headed the school as principal and owner, and during this period the school continued to function as a preschool. Over the years, many parents asked me to open a primary school, as the education that their children were receiving during their preschool career was of a very high standard, and they were reluctant to move their children. Very often I dismissed the notion, as the idea of beginning a primary school, and the associated work and staff requirements for such a task, seemed more than a little daunting. Finally, after many back-and-forth discussions with family and friends who knew and understood my passion for children as well as education, in 2013 I was convinced to open the primary side of our school. The school was renamed and rebranded, and The Mustard Seed Christian Academy was born. In January 2014, we welcomed our very first class of Grade 1s, who had just graduated from Grade R.

A savvy staff

Starting the primary school also involved employing new staff to deal with the added responsibilities. In 2014, Reuben Sverdloff joined the academy, and was highly instrumental in implementing electronic systems that would help the school to run smoothly in terms of finance and human resources (HR). In December 2016, we welcomed Emmenique Canham to our staff. She came with vast experience in corporate administration, accounting and events management, and has taken on the running of school events and promotions. Currently in the employ of the academy are six trained and qualified teachers of various backgrounds, who are dedicated to helping the school grow and reach its full potential so that the learners who attend will be its greatest benefactors.

Parents an integral part of the programme

The school has now been running year on year as a primary school, growing steadily. The opportunity for middle-income parents to give their children a private education – comforted by the knowledge that there is no risk of teachers going on strike, or simply just not giving their children the sorely needed oneon- one attention required to ensure good grades – has been achieved by keeping our class sizes as small as possible. Although the road has been rocky at times, we have found that other independent schools have been like a community to us, welcoming us into the fold and providing us with valuable insight and information. We believe that parents and guardians play a key role in helping us to educate learners. We pride ourselves on keeping our parents as informed as possible, whilst working proactively with each family’s child. This way, should there be any learning areas that need more targeted attention, we are able to pick up on this very early and immediately take action to assist the learner. Parents are asked to assist in whatever way they can to help the learner become more comfortable in the learning area. We currently offer extra lessons free of charge to our learners, as our main goal will always be to assist the learners as much as academically possible.

“After our very first telephone call to ISASA, we knew that we were on the right track, and after our first meeting, we were left feeling hopeful and encouraged. Being a member of ISASA provides us with much-needed support, which had been sorely lacking.”

The benefits of a bursary

Over the years and due to personal experience, we realised that for the parents of our learners, paying for aftercare was a financial burden that often ended up impacting their ability to pay fees. It was decided that aftercare would be included in the school fees and, for the past four years, we have therefore offered this service ‘free of charge’ to our families. This year, we offered one of our learners who had been achieving consistently above-average grades in all learning areas a bursary, because the learner’s parents often couldn’t afford the transport money to send their child to school. However, they had been more than willing to keep trying to pay what they could. Although the school is completely independent and not funded in anyway, and therefore is solely reliant on fee payments, we also recognise the need for community and outreach, and could not unreasonably deny this dedicated learner an opportunity to have a private education. Understanding that the emotional impact of having to leave our school might negatively impact her academic future, we are extremely proud to have her as the recipient of our first bursary.

A downtown, centralised community

As a school located close to the Johannesburg central business district, we are easily accessible by highway to the main city centre and therefore have a diverse group of children who attend our school. Different cultural influences and experiences permeate through our safe and stimulating environment, where our learners are able to learn about each other in a respectful manner. We are able to draw on the community around us for support in terms of helping teach our learners about daily life. Nearby our school is a post office, a police station and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). Members of these organisations are often involved in teaching our learners about pet care, safety and daily operations. In the same vein, we have involved our learners in community outreach, affording them the opportunity to give to those less fortunate than themselves. During the course of 2017, our learners visited a home for the elderly and presented them with food and non-perishable items. They then sang a hymn for those who were present, and the love and warmth of the moment was truly felt by all. We will continue to teach our learners that giving to others is a gift to oneself.

Learning to live as leaders

One of our favourite quotes, which always rings true when educating learners, was uttered by Nelson Mandela, who said: “Sometimes, it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that generation. Let your greatness blossom.”1 The meaning behind this for us is that our learners are not merely children, but blossoming adults, who need to be equipped holistically for their future. This is the reason we believe in nurturing not only their minds, but also their bodies and souls. Our approach to education is that it is not only in the classroom that our learners experience an understanding of subject matter, but also during play and exploration of their environment. We firmly believe in teaching a moral code to live and learn. Our Christian ethos encourages learners to look to the Bible for guidance on how to handle trying circumstances.

Joining ISASA helps to define goals

Our current focuses for the coming year are to grow our school, improve our systems and upgrade our tools, keeping in line with our goal of providing affordable, accessible and highly interactive primary school education for our learners until the end of Grade 7. We continue to take pride in knowing each learner individually and will continue to add this personal touch to all that we do, as we take a vested interest in our learners and their futures. During 2017, we battled through, over and under several hurdles, all related to HR. This very quickly put us on course to find an organisation that would be able to assist us with these daily matters – an organisation with a vast amount of knowledge, as well as practical know-how. It wasn’t very long before we discovered ISASA. After our very first telephone call to ISASA, we knew that we were on the right track, and after our first meeting, we were left feeling hopeful and encouraged. Being a member of ISASA provides us with much-needed support, which had been sorely lacking.

At the start of another exciting journey

Now, as 2018 has begun, we have welcomed our first class of Grade 4s. This is an exciting time, as we will be moving into the intermediate phase of our primary school. This will come with its own set of challenges; however, we are more than up to the task as we continue to educate our future leaders. “Stude Teipsum Probatium Sistere” (“Study to show yourself approved.”) This is our motto, and it embodies our view on education, teaching our learners that the amount of work you put in will ultimately decide the reward and achievement you will receive.

1. See, for example:

Category: Summer 2018

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