"I bring life. I'm rich and pure and full of fresh thoughts, ready to take on the world. I'm an egg ready to hatch." - Tandile Matafeni, Grade 10
On Saturday the 26th of March, close to sixty learners met together for the first time in what we hope will be the start of a pivotal few years in their lives as students. There was celebration; there was science; there were engineering egg towers and English journals; there were straight line graphs and endothermic fizzes. All in all, a day to remember for students and teachers alike!
The group of students we met with on Saturday is the result of a rigorous selection process that saw over 500 application forms issued, literacy and numeracy testing, an innovative "Test-Teach-Test" aimed at gauging "teachability" (developed by LEAP Science and Maths school) and extensive input from teachers and principals. We're very aware that while this group of learners is "select", most learners understand very little English and have serious mathematical gaps, going back all the way to primary school. Preparing these students for tertiary education will be a challenge, but our real hope is that the qualities that saw them selected for this programme - tenacity, academic ability, leadership and service orientation - will make them a powerful influence on their schools and communities for many years to come.
Michelle and I moved to Zithulele in January and, together with a language teacher arriving in May and the usual unpredictable supply of volunteers in the area, we will be teaching these Ekukhuleni students on Friday afternoons, Saturdays and during school holidays. During the rest of the week we'll be spending time with teachers, assisting them with materials, ideas and teaching as well as supporting the after-school peer-tutoring programme that our students will run at their local schools. Having a full-time team in the area is already making a significant difference to the kinds of relationships and development opportunities that open up.
One of these opportunities, now beginning to blossom, is the Mqanduli/Mthatha Science Teacher Network. The group felt its way with a few tentative steps last year, but last month took a giant leap forward with a fantastic "kick-off" meeting with over 50 physical science teachers present as well as various "luminaries" from the Education Department, Walter Sisulu University and a number of other stakeholders. The challenge now will be to turn the group into an effective place for learning and growth to happen for the teachers involved.
Making this all possible has been two very generous anonymous donations - one renewable over three years - that will fund roughly half the year's work and have given us the breathing space we need while waiting to hear from other funders. We've also been donated a number of English reading books by a wonderful initiative in Cape Town called "The Bookery", run by Equal Education, which has a 'one school, one library' mission. Our sincere thanks go to these Axium supporters and we continue to ask that you keep us in your thoughts and prayers going forward into the uncertainty of the remainder of the year.
We hope to be able to offer these kinds of real opportunities for change to many students and teachers
for many years to come!
Yours in rural education,