There’s nowhere quite like Nardini Convent School

BY SISTER MPUME NHLEKO
In 1955, when our order, the Franciscan
Nardini Sisters, was celebrating 100 years of existence in Germany, the Right Reverend Bishop Bilgeri of the Eshowe Diocese in KwaZulu-Natal, (KZN) requested the then-mother general to send sisters to come and provide Catholic education for children in South Africa.

During 1956 and 1957, the sisters opened a pre-primary school and a primary school respectively. They started with only five children, but the numbers grew later. The school was officially registered as Nardini Convent School on 18 June 1957. At that time, the school offered three classes. By 1960, the school had boarding facilities, which were closed in 2002 and used for day care to date. In 1968, the school building was extended to accommodate seven classes. By then, there were 158 children enrolled, of whom 60 were boarders.

During the apartheid era, the school was only allowed to cater to the white community.2 In 1977, the Catholic bishops requested that Catholic schools opened to other racial groups, even if this conflicted with the law. In 1978, Isentraud

Rauscher,3 who was principal at the time, was brave enough to take in children of all races, despite the strong government opposition. This was not easy, since the school was then ostracised from participating in any sporting and cultural events with local government schools. The sisters, however, were not discouraged, as they felt that they needed to give quality education to disadvantaged children as well. Nardini had now enrolled 233 children. However, the facilities proved too small and, in 1988, a new wing was added to accommodate more children.
From 1990, the school started to accommodate more pupils
by having two classes per Grade. By then, the student cohort
was 247. The numbers increased steadily and, by 1997, the
school had doubled classes up to Grade 5. The intake had by
then exceeded 300. Another building was added to
accommodate all the classes. To date, the school can now
accommodate up to 420 children from Grade 1 to Grade 7 (all
double classes, at 30 children per class and 60 per Grade).

Quality still the mainstay

The drive to render quality education is still the mainstay for Nardini Convent School. The school strives to ensure that as many children as possible who are disadvantaged in different ways get a good education at our school. It is no longer about colour or race, but poverty and social deprivation. We have children who are orphans, and those whose family life situation suddenly changed due to the death of a breadwinner. We try to carry these children as much as we can through the help of donations from generous donors in Germany and the Catholic Institution of Education (CIE).4
This commitment to helping the poor and the marginalised stems from our founder, Paul Josef Nardini,5 after whom the school is named. Hence, our mission statement states:
While providing an excellent academic standard to all children, Nardini Convent School also strives to develop each child holistically, instilling Christian moral values urged by the charisma of our founder Blessed Dr Paul Joseph Nardini in the spirit of St Francis. Its teachers and religious sisters work towards bringing good news through works of charity striving to live by its motto “Concordia”, which challenges us to work towards peace and harmony with God, self and our environment within the framework of the Catholic ethos.
Compelled by our mission statement, Nardini Convent School is an independent Catholic school where children may develop their God-given potential with a sense of dignity and pride, while fostering independence, responsibility, respect and acceptance of religious and cultural diversity.

Guiding principles

To achieve this, Nardini Convent School strives to work towards holistic and quality education, following certain principles:
Pupil numbers per class should enable our teachers to achieve our objectives.
All children from Grade 2 to Grade 7 have access to computers.
Outings and excursions are planned cost effectively, so that all pupils can participate. The school subsidises these using money generated from our tuckshop.
We take part in educational seminars, such as “Science Unlimited”. Grades 1–3 children can take part in Experi- buddies: a science programme to foster a love of science. The Grade 7s interact with the Bosco Centre in Walkerville, participating in programmes such as “Love Matters”, which equips them to deal with life challenges. The school strives to promote good values in various ways. Through the year, we highlight different values over a month or more, depending on the intensity of the value. Children have to live the value and be consciously aware of it, and get reminded in different ways.
We believe strongly in our anti-bullying campaign to combat meanness among children. This was in response to the outcry of children who complained about being bullied. Children make posters on anti-bullying. They wear orange (our colour for anti-bullying) bandanas once a week. This serves as a reminder not to bully others.
Extramural activities are an important part of the whole education of the child, and thus a participation rather than performance philosophy is followed. All children have to take part in at least one sport every term. All
children are taught how to swim. We offer netball, rugby, Zulu dance, hockey, athletics, soccer, cricket and chess. The children compete with other schools, both locally and “away”, but the emphasis is not on winning but rather on the spirit of sportsmanship and skill learning. A number of children have been chosen to participate in district, regional and provincial teams.
In 2017, we added other extramural activities such as after-school art and needlework. In the fourth term, our choir sings at our prize-giving.
The school puts on a concert every third year as a fundraiser, but also to develop children’s talents. Every child takes part in this event. In 2017, we produced a stage play called Diamond to mark 60 years of the school’s existence.
Counselling is offered to children who have experienced death in the family or any other traumatic experiences. We have teachers with basic counselling skills. Children are also referred to a professional registered counsellor, who works from our premises once a week. The school pays her for this service.
Religious education lessons, as well as catechism, liturgies, feast days and outreach programmes, play an important part in fostering Catholic ethos and Christian moral values.
Our Catholic ethos is strongly evident throughout the school. There are displays done according to what is happening in the church at that particular time. Even though we are a Catholic school, we do respect other religions, as long as they do not infringe on our ethos. We have Holy Mass every month and assemblies on Mondays and Fridays, and each day starts with a prayer.
Our outreach programmes are important to us: children bring a tin of food or old good clothes or toys to Holy Mass, so that the church can distribute the items to the poor people around our area.

How we teach and learn

Our school offers the recognised South African Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) curriculum,9 with some
additional work that helps to consolidate the concepts learnt.
Our curriculum also includes religious education, computers, physical education, debating,spelling beesandsinging.With all the extras that are incorporated in teaching and learning, the children are exposed to many other spheres, which broadens their knowledge through extra resources.
We do consider the national requirements for progression. However, we expect our children to pass at a higher percentage than that stipulated in the national requirement. To help the children
to achieve this goal, the teachers strive to consolidate and drill the work through lots of different tasks (formal and informal) that give the children the opportunity to grapple with the content until the teacher feels that they have fully grasped it.
Children are encouraged through a merit system to work hard to reach their potential. In the fourth term, we have a prize- giving – the children are encouraged to work for an 80% aggregate. Grade 6s and Grade 7s get academic colours if they have obtained an 80% aggregate, represented by a badge that they wear on the school uniform.

Benchmarking standards

To benchmark our standards of teaching and learning, we get our children to participate in Olympiads such as Conquesta, the South African Council for English Education (SACEE) language challenge and science Olympiads.10 Our children prove to us that they have grasped the work taught, as they often do well in these tests. When the Grade 6s were writing Annual National Assessment (ANA) tests, our results11 were always above the national average. In 2016, two of our Grade 7s participated in the International Movement for Leisure Activities in Science and Technology (Mouvement International pour le Loisir Scientifique et Technique) (MILSET) International Science Expo12 and their project came third. This was a great achievement, since the competition was tough and it was their first exposure to that kind of environment.
Former Nardini pupils have done us proud by achieving distinctions in matric and attaining the highest marks at district levels. Moreover, our ex-pupils are placed in leadership positions in various high schools, because of their confidence and leadership skills.

Sr Mpume Nhleko is principal at Nardini Convent School.

References:
1. See: http://nardinisisters.org/index.php/nardini-sisters-history-in-south-africa. 2. See, for example: http://overcomingapartheid.msu.edu/sidebar.php?id=65-
258-2.
3. See: http://www.nardinisisters.org/index.php/south-africa-missions/vryheid. 4. See: http://www.cie.org.za/.
5. See: http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/saints/ns_lit_doc_
20061022_nardini_en.html.
6. See: http://www.saasta.ac.za/festivals/science-unlimited/.
7. See: https://www.experi.co.za/view.php?lang=eng.
8. See: http://www.boscocentre.co.za/.
9. See: http://www.education.gov.za/Curriculum/CurriculumAssessment
PolicyStatements(CAPS).aspx.
10. See:http://www.conquestaolympiads.com/;
http://www.sacee.org.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=86
&Itemid=186 and http://www.scienceolympiad.co.za/.
11. See:http://www.education.gov.za/Curriculum/AnnualNational
Assessment/tabid/424/Default.aspx.
12. See: http://www.milset.org/en/activities/expo_sciences/esi.html.

Category: Winter 2019

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