In this part of the world it often feels like the best efforts of dedicated teachers, students, partner organisations and our own staff combine to make not an inch of impact on the giant, gold education 'ball' standing at the top of the hill. We know that if we could just get this thing moving, momentum would take over, but most often it feels like a job far too big for a committed few. However, there are signs - if at times only inklings - that the proverbial tipping point is not as far away as it may seem. In this newsletter we highlight a few of these indicators
the Khan Academy and Ekukhuleni programmes on the move from 'start-up' to 'startling'; Senior Management Team networks breaking new ground; school infrastructure increasingly on the national agenda; and more opportunities for technology to impact rural learning around the corner.
You may remember that in October last year, a group of 25 educators from seven schools in our area met together to launch the SSS Network, a forum where school Senior Management Teams (SMTs) discuss common issues and receive professional growth opportunities. With most research showing leadership strongly linked to school improvement, the investments here seem an important support to schools. Funding from the Cyril Harris Memorial Foundation has enabled us to bring up experts Ian Junor and John Gibbon to present sessions on financial management and curriculum leadership respectively, and the second half of the year is shaping up to be similarly productive. As the group develops consistency and identity, we're excited by the prospects for leadership growth in schools.
In our previous newsletter, we mentioned visits from the Legal Resources Centre and the Mail & Guardian newspaper aimed at raising awareness around the state of school infrastructure. This was followed up by a high profile tour, the Solidarity Visit, organised by Equal Education and hosted by the Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makogba. The delegates were visibly moved by their experiences here and many have gone on to write and share their concerns within their spheres of influence. For extensive coverage of this visit, articles, videos and more, click here. What a stark contrast between the tangible disillusion with the government infrastructure programme that hovered over the Solidarity Visit and the fight shown by Principal Mzinyathi of Mpako Junior Secondary School! After eventually losing patience with the wait for new classrooms, she connected with an Mpumalanga-based NGO who fund school buildings and her brand new classrooms are nearing completion (see below). Now that's what we need more of!
We continue to be enthused by the growth in our Khan Academy and Ekukhuleni programmes, as they move from start-up 'good ideas' to transformative programmes offering opportunities for students to excel. School holidays tend to be very busy and over the mid-year break we have no less than three Boot Camps planned, as well as a job shadow for Grade 12s at Zithulele Hospital, two visiting American groups and a leadership camp. It's wonderful to begin to see the coherence develop between the different programmes: students who were with us in our grade 9 Khan programmes last year have become Ekukhuleni students this year, and are in turn leading their peers as study group 'champions' at their schools during the week; the Zithulele Tigers are taking our investments in them on the sports field into the classroom, where they have become influential members of both Khan and Ekukhuleni; and, the connections our study group mentors make with science and maths teachers during their weekly visits to schools helps to shape our Ekukhuleni content, as well as our work with teachers. It is certainly starting to feel synergistic!
Finally, a brief look at what we think may be on the horizon for us. Kristi Jooste has secured a number of amazing donations from Fundza Literacy Trust and McGraw-Hill, and through some collaborations with organisations pioneering literacy work in South Africa, like Nal'ibali and the Nelson Mandela Institute, she is developing a comprehensive literacy programme, currently in trial with our Khan students. As I've mentioned before, a number of studies, as well as our own experience,tells us that language is absolutely vital for concept development in both maths and science. So we're excited to see how this develops. Then, as our Khan Academy programme begins to prove itself, we're exploring ways to move this from an after-school add-on, to an integrated in-school support for maths teachers at partner schools. Watch this space!
And there's so much more
Tim Hutchinson, teaching at Sea View Senior Secondary, was featured in the Mail & Guardian (and now finally has a signed contract of employment!); our staff accommodation is in the process of being built thanks to our friends at Jabulani RHF and the generosity of Anglo Platinum's Lefa-La-Rona Trust; Mxit is coming to Ekukhuleni; we have a new copy machine thanks to Pincus Matz Attorneys; and, the next batch of UCT teaching students arrive in mid-July.
Thanks for your part in making this all happen.
Siyaqhubeka! (We are moving forward!)
Craig, Michelle and the Axium Team