Early Childhood Development Centre at Hawkstone School
At the end of 2014 I retired as the Principal of Settlers’ Park Pre-Primary School in Pietermaritzburg. I have lived in the Karkloof for nine years and after I retired, I realised that there was an opportunity to support education in the Karkloof. Initially, I established a partnership with Yarrow School, which is an impoverished farm school. The main aim of the partnership is to mentor teachers, assist with curriculum delivery and upgrade resources. This partnership is ongoing: The Yarrow community are actively involved in the school and two retired teachers assist with the teaching of English on a weekly basis.
I have always taken a personal interest in mentorship and curriculum development and made a point of keeping up to date with current trends in education both locally and overseas. In 2005 I was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship to study mentorship at Sterling University in Scotland and subsequently had the opportunity to implement programmes in three disadvantaged schools.
I am a qualified junior primary teacher and have been teaching for more than thirty five years in this phase, both in the private sector and for the Gauteng Department of Education.
There is a dire need in the rural schools of South Africa to train and mentor teachers in curriculum development. Although this responsibility falls directly under the jurisdiction of the Department of Education, their abysmal track record speaks for itself. According to the World Economic Forum (2014) public education in South Africa is the worst in Africa and 4th worst in the world!
The 2016 “Progress in International Reading Literacy Study” (PIRLS) report was released two weeks ago. South Africa was ranked last out of 50 high and medium income countries. A staggering 78% of our Grade 4 children are functionally illiterate. The study stated that there was no improvement in our outcomes since the last study in 2011.
One of the problems with our education system is that young children are not introduced to the education process at an optimal age. This is especially detrimental for rural children who come from impoverished homes where there is little stimulation and no frame of reference for many of the concepts that are taught.
With this in mind, I would like to start a small Early Childhood Development (ECD) centre. The most logical place to establish the centre is at an existing school. The owner of Hawkstone Farm, Mr.Bruce Mackenzie in consultation with the school Principal, Mr Bheki Lepheana, have agreed to the establishment of a small ECD Centre at the school. There is an existing room in the main building which will provide an excellent venue.
The centre will cater for a maximum of fifteen children, 3-5 years of age, who reside in the area that serves Hawkstone School. Twelve children have been identified who will be eligible to enrol for the 2018 academic year.
In addition I will develop a resource centre for the school which will also be used by the Grade R and Grade 1 teachers and children.
Initially, I will be responsible for teacher training and developing the curriculum for the centre.
A suitable student, Londiwe Dladla, who would like to train as a teacher, has been identified. Londiwe lives in the Karkloof and matriculated in 2011. She also attended Hawkstone School for her primary schooling.
The year 2018 will be Londiwe’s probationary year. She will work closely with me in the classroom and will be mentored after hours, so she can learn the necessary skills and knowledge, develop lesson plans and implement an assessment and reporting structure.
If her probation is successful, it is proposed that Londiwe is enrolled for the Higher Certificate and National Diploma in Early Childhood Education Development at the Caversham Education Institute. The institute is registered with South African Council of Educators and the qualification is linked to the National Qualifications framework (NQF Level 5).
The courses have been developed by Jill Sachs, formerly of the Department of Education. They provide an excellent academic programme and also include the practical application of skills which are essential for teaching. The students are monitored by competent, professional teachers.
I firmly believe that if we are to preserve the integrity of the valley, the indigenous community has to be part of the process. My field of expertise is education and I hope to play a part to encourage young people to aspire to the importance of education and be part of the process of uplifting themselves from the spiral of poverty and the associated negative influences.
Submitted by Mary Gray.