The St John’s– Masibambane Teacher Internship Programme

| June 24, 2014 | 0 Comments

By Pier Myburgh, Patrick Lees and Pieter Steyn

South Africa’s inability to create equal education opportunities for all her children remains one of the greatest challenges of our fledgling democracy.

While great efforts have been made to redress past inequalities in our political and business environments, the goal of providing a worthwhile and equal education for all has not yet been achieved.1 Teacher shortages and lack of community leadership in South Africa have reached epidemic levels,2 affecting not only the quality of education that our children receive, but also their ability to develop to their full potential and play their part in ensuring the ongoing success of our democracy. All South African schools, private and public alike, have been adversely affected by the dearth of good teachers.

Taking action

St John’s College in Houghton and Masibambane College in Orange Farm3 have decided to take action. In 2013, we developed a comprehensive teacher internship programme that offers high school children from Masibambane College holistic support during their school years (particularly in matric), after which deserving candidates are offered full bursaries to study a teaching degree at the University of South Africa (Unisa) while working as interns at St John’s College.

This internship is not a social handout. The programme offers financial assistance, academic and emotional support, and quality work experience to students who are willing to go the extra mile to help themselves. The programme demands dedication and a strong work ethic, supported by the values of honesty, transparency and accountability from candidates and programme volunteers alike.

We see the programme as a worthwhile social investment: our candidates are our assets and the return on our investment is the passionate, well-trained and dedicated teachers that they will become. While we demand a sound academic performance, our main focus falls on the development of each individual. We build a close relationship with the candidates during their matric year, and through individual and group mentoring throughout their five-year involvement with the programme. We believe that this is what sets us apart from other programmes of its kind.

The internship plan

The programme runs in five-year cycles, which are divided into two parts: the matric year and the four subsequent years of Unisa studies. A new cycle starts at the beginning of each year, so that in the fifth year, five cycles will run concurrently.

• Matric year:We provide academic and emotional support to matrics so that they can achieve the best final examination results possible. Matrics are invited to apply for internship at the start of the year. While some of our initiatives are aimed only at internship participants because of funding and resource constraints, we try to adopt an inclusive approach that will benefit all Masibambane matrics where possible.

• Unisa studies (four years): We offer full bursaries, which include the cost of accommodation and living expenses, an internship salary, information technology (IT) equipment and fees. A comprehensive mentorship programme includes the appointment of individual mentors, enrichment outings and life-skills coaching. In addition, the interns become fully integrated into the teaching faculty and all aspects of the academic, pastoral and sporting life at St John’s College. To maintain their link with Orange Farm, they will be expected to spend one week per term as interns at Masibambane College as well.

Matric support

We believe in addressing the needs of the students as expressed by the students. This is why we start each year with an anonymous survey, which gives students the opportunity to inform us of their most pressing challenges so that the support we offer will be of value to them. In response to their needs, we have put in place the initiatives listed below. Each of these is reviewed on an annual basis:

• Study room: We have created a safe study area for matrics at Masibambane College, where they can work and interact with their peers until 18:00.

• FAMSA: The Family Life Centre (FAMSA) meets with the Grade 10s, 11s and 12s at Masibambane College, to chat to them about puberty, pregnancy, contraception and sexually transmitted diseases, as well as relationships, life choices and general teenage matters.4

• Career Day: We offer a comprehensive career guidance day at Masibambane College. Last year, over 500 students attended the day, which included exhibitors ranging from tertiary study institutions and corporate and professional careers to jobs that do not require university degrees.

• Aptitude tests: Comprehensive aptitude tests are offered to matric internship candidates. Individual feedback sessions provide the students with a better understanding of their own strengths and abilities.

• Motivational speaker programme:We source interesting, successful and motivational people to share their stories of hope and growth with all the Masibambane students on a regular basis.

• Study schools: During school holidays, the matric internship candidates spend a week at St John’s, where they receive additional academic tuition. During this time, they also sit in on academic, cultural and sports lessons at St John’s to gain some insight into teaching.

• Mentoring: Our mentoring programme offers support to the students without removing their own accountability or interfering with the efforts of their teachers. Mentees are guided to use internet resources to teach them independent research and problem-solving skills. Social, personal and emotional problems are referred to professional psychologists, and coaching on goal-setting is offered by a professional life coach.

• GIBS Business School Bizschool Programme: Candidates are given the opportunity to attend the GIBS Business School’s Bizschool Programme, where they are taught selfawareness, workplace readiness (e.g. preparing a curriculum vitae, interview skills and workplace conduct) and adult life skills such as time management, public speaking, personal finances and entrepreneurial skills.5

Extending our reach

Quality education from Grade 0 to Grade 12 will provide us with quality interns, who in turn will become great teachers. We support Masibambane College as a school of excellence by introducing other programmes to the school when we can, such as:

• The flourishing school: Students are taught perseverance, social intelligence, curiosity, resilience, self-control and the ability to harness their inner strengths to handle life’s ups and downs. These skills improve students’ academic achievement and their ability to thrive at university, in jobs and in their relationships in and outside of school.

• One Laptop per Child: Masibambane is the first school in Africa to benefit from this internationally acclaimed programme, whereby students are provided with laptops and teachers are given the relevant training and support to aid reading and other areas of the syllabus.6

• Other internships: We introduce other internships to the school where we can, so that the matrics who may not want to become teachers are also offered access to sustainable alternative careers.

Reaping rewards

In 2013, Masibambane College celebrated a 100% matric pass rate, with 92% of students achieving an university exemption. The first four interns to receive internship bursaries – Sifiso Adams, Nomthandazo Xulu, Faith Ralane and Shingirai Mudima – have already established themselves as enthusiastic, hardworking and delightful teachers-in-training in all aspects of campus life at St John’s College. Each one reports tremendous personal growth, ranging from overcoming the fear of speaking in public, learning how to swim, improving IT skills and managing their own bank accounts to interacting with adults and children from all walks of life.

Looking ahead

The impact that a good teacher has on his or her students, and the resulting ripple effect through their lives and throughout their communities, cannot be overstated. Every year, we hope to offer at least four students the chance to study a teaching degree. However, we have placed no limitation on our output. The reach of the St John’s–Masibambane Teacher Internship Programme can and will be as wide as financial and human resources allow. Masibambane means ‘let us hold hands together’. We invite anyone interested in our programme (schools, individuals or businesses) and who feels they can make a contribution, be it financial or otherwise, to talk to us about partnership opportunities. Let us hold hands to sustain our schools, our students and our country.

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Category: Winter 2014

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