Giv­ing poor pupils a chance to get to­gether

Gar­den Cities has spent 11 years pro­vid­ing halls to un­der­priv­i­leged Cape schools

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - PROPERTY -

AF­TER an as­sess­ment of ed­u­ca­tional dis­par­ity back in 2003, John Matthews, the then-newly ap­pointed chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Western Cape’s old­est res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment com­pany, Gar­den Cities, un­cov­ered the gi­gan­tic short­fall of more than 700 school halls in dis­ad­van­taged WC schools.

Now 11 years later, the com­pany’s Arch­way Foun­da­tion school halls con­tinue to chip away at the mas­sive mono­lith of in­equal­ity in Cape ed­u­ca­tion. In its 11 years the Foun­da­tion has, pro­vided 60 halls for poor schools in the prov­ince. The cost to­tals over R206 mil­lion, pri­mar­ily its own funds, with the Western Cape Ed­u­ca­tion De­part­ment (WCED) and cor­po­rates as fel­low donors.

How­ever, there are still around a mil­lion chil­dren in the prov­ince go­ing to schools with­out a hall. They are still gath­er­ing in open quad­ran­gles for as­sem­blies, and hired halls for spe­cial oc­ca­sions.

“No ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem is per­fect, but pro­vid­ing the ba­sic ne­ces­si­ties for a holis­tic ed­u­ca­tion is an unar­guable ne­ces­sity. Re­dress­ing decades of ne­glect is a mon­u­men­tal task, and more help is needed,” he says.

Why Matthews chose school halls as his mis­sion, and that of the Arch­way Foun­da­tion, which was cre­ated for the pur­pose, could be partly as­cribed to per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence. Driven to at­tain high lev­els of ter­tiary qual­i­fi­ca­tion, he didn’t have it easy. School­ing took place in con­di­tions that were not priv­i­leged, and by no means equal.

He knows at first hand, the sear­ing sum­mer days and icy wet win­ters in which Cape chil­dren still to­day gather in the open for their schools’ as­sem­blies, with nowhere to ex­press their cre­ativ­ity, or gather for cul­tural ex­pres­sion.

School halls are still not a hugely pop­u­lar cause. Un­like class­rooms and lab­o­ra­to­ries they are not widely viewed as be­ing key to ed­u­cat­ing young minds. This is en­tirely un­true.

A sur­vey was con­ducted among prin­ci­pals, teach­ers, school­child­ren and par­ents at schools where Arch­way halls had al­ready been handed over. It re­vealed that a school as­sem­bly hall made an ex­traor­di­nar­ily pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence to aca­demic per­for­man­cel, the lev­els of self-es­teem among the en­tire school body, in­clud­ing the sur­round­ing com­mu­nity, and the sta­tus of the school among po­ten­tial pupils.

Chil­dren’s at­ti­tude to­wards school and learn­ing changed. Cre­ative en­ergy was rekin­dled. It shows in aca­demic re­sults and in the achieve­ments in cul­ture, arts, sport and lead­er­ship.

There have been many ex­pres­sions of thanks over the years, but none more heart­felt than that of the lit­tle rhyme penned by a Cape Town pupil:

Gar­den Cities, toe dit lyk/ of nie­mand luis­ter na ons gepleit/ het julle nie geskroom/ met die ver­we­sen­lik­ing van ons droom! ( Gar­den Cities, though it seemed no one heard our plead­ing, you hero­ically as­sem­bled a hall from our dream­ing).

The Arch­way Foun­da­tion calls on all cor­po­ra­tions to USE their CSI funds: equalise op­por­tu­ni­ties for all South African chil­dren by pro­vid­ing ONE of the ba­sic ed­u­ca­tional ne­ces­si­ties. John Matthews would wel­come a call on 021 558 7181.

HOLISM: Gar­den Cities chief ex­ec­u­tive, John Matthews.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.