Umtata Christian School

| September 10, 2012 | 64 Comments

Doing it for the African child.

By Mandla Higa

If schools stand as beacons of hope for their immediate communities and the nation, we should acknowledge their contextual differences as to where they are situated and the kind of the societies they serve.

Umtata Christian School is a faith-based school located in Mthatha in the former Transkei region of the Eastern Cape. It is part of the Rucc Christian Church,1 known as Rucc Ministries. The tagline ‘Doing it for the African child’ extends our mandate beyond our immediate school community, for whatever we achieve must also be achieved by those around us.

Changing family structures affect rural education Education in South Africa can be seen as a picture of highly successful schools that stand as lamps scattered around the country, with peripheral areas that are in darkness with regard to levels of illiteracy. The biggest challenge in our region is a growing population of very young children – the product of the high rate of teenage pregnancy in rural areas around Mthatha. The children are left by their teenage mothers and fathers to be taken care of by grandmothers.

In a recent newspaper article, Dr Max Price, the vice chancellor of the University of Cape Town, made these assertions:

…the performance of students is affected by the educational experience of their parents. The South African education system gives advantage to those with a good command of English. It favours those whose parents completed school – with maths and science as added advantages – and especially higher education, because it enables them to provide learning support to their children. For example, a mother who was subjected to the system of Bantu education might place a heightened emphasis on the value of education because of her deprived background, but may not always know how to assist, motivate and inspire a child to achieve an A aggregate. The attitudes of parents to their children’s scholastic performance may differ, based on the parents’ personal schooling experience – with far-reaching consequences. The parent who had advantaged schooling is generally more experienced and competent to assess whether a child is underperforming, might set clear expectations about achieving a few distinctions and intervene when difficulties occur. There is ample evidence that the unfairness of inferior education is perpetuated among the next generation.2

My question is: will we allow inferior education to be perpetuated among the next generation?

Early childhood development most critical time Co-authors Eric Atmore, Dylan Wray and Gillian Godsell have expanded discussion on the topic, saying:

Investment in early education of young children produces greater social, cognitive and economic returns than at any other stage in life, including secondary and tertiary education and the on-the-job training. Various international studies have shown that a quality early childhood development (ECD) programme increases achievement on cognitive test scores, decreases school grade repetition, reduces the need for costly remedial education, decreases involvement in juvenile crime and delinquency, increases school pass rates, increases the likelihood of being gainfully employed as an adult and, for young girls, decreases the likelihood of being pregnant while a teenager.3

Finding partners for preschool feeding scheme Umtata Christian School is affiliated to organisations at the cutting edge in educational matters, such as ISASA. This makes it possible for us to stand as a lamp in the midst of darkness; an opportunity to be the light.

We have thus embarked on a project to feed 3 085 preschool children in 97 preschools daily in Port St Johns, Libode, Mthatha and Mqanduli-Coffee Bay. We chose this project because early childhood is a critical developmental stage and these areas are marked by high levels of poverty, putting thousands of very young children at risk. We chose so many schools and children to feed because when we visited them, our hearts broke to see their plight, and we could not exclude them.

Don Phillips, senior pastor of Rucc Christian Church and also the owner of our school, happened to meet the Joint Aid Management (JAM) director on his travels around the country. Both are fellow members of the International Federation of Christian Churches. JAM is a non-governmental organisation involved in various poverty-fighting initiatives throughout Africa. Partnering with Joyce Meyer Ministries, it expressed an interest in our feeding scheme, and has provided much-needed funding. Its community development vision is also aligned with our mission statement. We signed a memorandum of understanding that stipulates that Umtata Christian School will meet the education needs of the children, while our partners will take care of feeding them. Together we agreed that by 2013 the number will be increased to 6 000 children.

Truckloads of ‘food nutrition’ bags – enough to last for three months – are brought down from Durban to Mthatha. The food is in the form of a highly nutritious porridge that is mixed with boiled water. Each preschool has a trained waitress who prepares the food daily for the kids. We have found that there is less absenteeism in the preschools when children receive a daily meal.

Creating accessible learning materials

It is not enough for us to feed the very young children in our communities. The school has also created learning materials for preschool practitioners, to make sure that quality preschool education is provided.

I was trained in Occupational Directed Education Training and Development Practices through the Education, Training and Development Practices Sector Education and Training Authority (ETDPSETA), and felt able to develop the material in conjunction with our ECD practitioners at Umtata Christian School.

We focused on the developmental stages of young children in the design of the learning material, which is available as a package comprising themes to be taught over four terms. In term one, we cover My Body and Summer; in term two, My Family and Autumn; term three, My Home and Winter; and in term four, My Environment and Spring. The Department of Social Development was instrumental in helping us target the preschools in our region that would benefit the most from these learning modules.

Feedback was quick to come: in one of the rural areas, several guardians and parents of Grade R learners compared the development of their children with siblings who had never been enrolled in school, and decided that quality ECD was important.

Our school curriculum committee meets each year to consider updates to the learning materials, and each month we hold cluster meetings with ECD practitioners to gather feedback. The school team also visits some of the preschools to monitor teaching and learning in action.

Local contexts for trained teachers

One of our key long-term aims is to involve ECD practitioners more actively in the design of future learning materials, which will include indigenous knowledge. For example, if teachers are busy in term four with the theme My Environment and Spring, and in that area aloe is a dominant plant, it must feature in classroom discussions.

When we initially visited preschools in our region, we found that many teachers were not properly trained. We contacted the ETDPSETA in this regard, and the organisation has played a major role in training 25 practitioners in its Level 4 ECD course.

As a school, we are in the process of developing our own Level 4 ECD qualification that will be customised for rural practitioners. We want the materials to help them speak to their own contexts as they develop children from broken family structures.

We hope to reach 6 000 young learners next year, and seek partnerships with other funders and institutions that want to assist with curriculum production, the financing of monitoring and support, skills development and the supply of toys and playground equipment.

Schools should be seen as community centres of knowledge and progress. They should transform from traditional inwardlooking organisations to adaptable institutions seeking opportunities to respond to the questions their immediate communities are asking.

References:

1. See, for example, http://www.ruccministries.org.za/RUCCMainSite/Home.aspx.

2. See, for example, http://www.uct.ac.za/usr/about/intro/transformation/2012/admissions_ policy_max_price_130112.pdf.

3. Du Preez, M. (ed.) (2011) Opinion Pieces by South African Thought Leaders. Johannesburg: Penguin Books.

Category: Spring 2012

About the Author ()

News posts added for Independent Education by Global Latitude DMA

Comments (64)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Ntombi says:

    Would love to register my two sons cirrently in grades 6&2
    For 2019
    Plz email the boarding fees

  2. Yolanda says:

    Please email me with the school’s details and everything for a 6 year old girl in grade 1

  3. Ntomboxolo Matshikiza says:

    Want to apply for my 15 year old daughter,she is gonna be doing grade 11,please send me full info about school fees and boarding fees.

  4. Winnie Hesewu says:

    Hi,

    May you please assist me I would like to found out the admission fee for the year of 2019 for grade3 leaner,
    I will much appreciate to hear from you soon thank you,

  5. THEMBISA TINYANE says:

    my son is in grade4 this year and i would like to know about the school fees and the boarding fees.Also i am in need of the application form if its possible.

  6. Nkutloeleng says:

    I want to apply for my 8 years daughter next year can you plz send me the costs plzzzz

  7. Nokuthula Tyhalithi says:

    I want to know about fees,and the school is boarding.my you help me with info I want to apply for my child

  8. Can you please assist with the fees for grade 6 leaner for 2019 please

  9. Bomkazi Mkizwane says:

    How do I apply for a child that have 12 year and doing grade 8 next year. I want to know if its boarding school or not and also all fees that I have to pay

  10. Vuyelwa Qwesha says:

    Can I be furnished with application process due dates and fees forn2019 grade 5 and 1

  11. Noncedo says:

    Can I get a space for my kids grade2andgrade7.All information please.

  12. Lelethu says:

    I would like to know if there is space available for a grade 10 learner.

  13. veronica xoliswa nontyida says:

    how do I apply for my son 14years old for boarding school and how much is the fees for grade 10 next year my number is 0766354575

  14. love your school. please notify me when the is space for my little girl, who will be doing grade7 next year. an 11 year old girl

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *