Reimag­in­ing ed­u­ca­tion at un­de­served schools

The Herald (South Africa) - - Educator - Za­man­dulo Malonde

The bell rings at Charles Duna pri­mary school in New Brighton. It’s 1.30pm on a Wed­nes­day. Right on cue, dozens of pupils run to the sports fields. Dressed com­fort­ably – some in jeans, tights or track­suits, their ex­cite­ment is pal­pa­ble. In­side a class­room me­tres away, is Jar­ren Gan­giah, the new maths, sci­ence and tech teacher. “These kids have so much po­ten­tial al­ready, roots and all, but what we as teach­ers are do­ing is fer­til­is­ing the soil,” Gan­giah, who is a stu­dent at Nel­son Man­dela Univer­sity, said. He joined the school in Jan­uary through the univer­sity’s Cen­tre for the Com­mu­nity School (CCS), af­ter ob­tain­ing his BEd in 2018. The pro­gramme is one the univer­sity’s out­reach ini­tia­tives aimed at de­vel­op­ing al­ter­na­tive ap­proaches to school im­prove­ment that are rel­e­vant and re­spon­sive to the con­tex­tual re­al­i­ties of un­der­served schools and com­mu­ni­ties in SA. Charles Duna Pri­mary is one of var­i­ous schools adopted by the CCS pro­gramme in Nel­son Man­dela Bay. Nel­son Man­dela Univer­sity me­dia man­ager Zandile Mba­bela said: “The CCS is an en­gage­ment en­tity of the fac­ulty of ed­u­ca­tion. It works with com­mu­ni­ties to reimag­ine the school­ing sys­tem. It is an open se­cret that the chal­lenges fac­ing schools go be­yond pure aca­demics and re­quire a con­sol­i­dated and collaborat­ive ap­proach. “The CCS takes into ac­count all fac­tors af­fect­ing the ad­e­quate pro­vi­sion of qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion – the so­cial, po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic con­texts in which the schools find them­selves. “Key to this ap­proach is the involvemen­t of par­ents, ed­u­ca­tors, the com­mu­nity and pupils them­selves in craft­ing and co-cre­at­ing suitable and sus­tain­able solutions in a man­ner that also fos­ters a sense of own­er­ship,” Mba­bela said. As one of Nel­son Man­dela Bay’s un­der­served schools, Charles Duna Pri­mary’s func­tion­al­ity rides on the back of teach­ers, ac­tively in­volved com­mu­nity mem­bers and vol­un­teers who col­lec­tively form the school’s lead­er­ship body. “When I first vis­ited the school, I was ex­pect­ing to see peo­ple who come in to per­haps tend to the gar­den or do some main­te­nance work and go, but I came here and found a fam­ily of teach­ers, pupils, par­ents and com­mu­nity mem­bers who are all in­ter­ested in not just pro­vid­ing qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion, but form­ing gen­uine qual­ity re­la­tion­ships,” Gan­giah said. On oc­ca­sions where cer­tain pupils dis­play a change in be­hav­iour, care­fully and mind­fully in­ves­ti­gat­ing the cause while con­sid­er­ing the pupil’s back­ground and fam­ily dy­nam­ics, is a re­spon­si­bil­ity the staff share,” Gan­giah said. “I know that some peo­ple say there will al­ways be that one or two pupils in a class who won’t lis­ten and take it as proof that all they want is to be a dis­trac­tion in class, but this is not al­ways the case. “At times, they do not in­tend to be a dis­trac­tion, but their be­hav­iour is in­flu­enced or af­fected by their cir­cum­stances at home. “There are hun­dreds of pupils with dif­fer­ent back­grounds – some come to school hun­gry and can­not concentrat­e and some are from abu­sive homes that leave school as the only safe space for them to

“Charles Duna Pri­mary is one of var­i­ous schools adopted by the CCS pro­gramme in Nel­son Man­dela Bay”

hon­estly ex­press their emo­tions. “That’s where those per­sonal re­la­tion­ships with each pupil help, be­cause we as teach­ers are then able to lis­ten to their prob­lems and help where we can. “The school’s lead­ers all share the pas­sion to raise cit­i­zens who face the world with con­fi­dence and ac­knowl­edge humanity above all else,” Gan­giah said. “Be­yond what’s in a text­book, these pupils are con­sciously and sub­con­sciously learn­ing about life and the world. “I can­not stress enough how im­por­tant it is for us to value that these pupils are hu­man be­ings who mat­ter and have the po­ten­tial to cre­ate a world bet­ter than the one we live in to­day.” In-be­tween fist bumps and chuck­les at in­side jokes with his pupils, Gan­giah tells of the eye­open­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of liv­ing in Sum­mer­strand and trav­el­ling to work in the com­pletely dif­fer­ent world of New Brighton. The ed­u­ca­tion psy­chol­ogy stu­dent who grew up in ru­ral KwaZulu-Natal, said un­der­stand­ing dif­fer­ent back­grounds and cul­tural dy­nam­ics is one of sev­eral ways to ex­pe­ri­ence pupils on a per­sonal level be­yond merely teach­ing to get paid at the end of the month. “While un­der­served schools are not these hor­ri­ble spa­ces where noth­ing good hap­pens, it is im­por­tant for us to ac­knowl­edge and be able to ad­just to events, such as crime, that im­pact our day-to-day learn­ing.” As a re­sult of crime in New Brighton, one of the school’s foun­da­tion phase teach­ers could not make it to school af­ter an at­tempted break-in at her house. “While we don’t sweep such un­for­tu­nate re­al­i­ties un­der the car­pet, we con­tinue to en­cour­age our pupils to en­vi­sion a safer and bet­ter world and work to­wards cre­at­ing it,” Gan­giah said. The team’s ef­forts are ev­i­dently not in vain as a num­ber of Gan­giah’s pupils dream of be­com­ing prom­i­nent mem­bers of so­ci­ety – rang­ing from pi­lots, so­cial work­ers and en­gi­neers to lawyers, psy­chol­o­gists and fashion de­sign­ers. “We are not just look­ing at help­ing a child to get a job one day, we want them to be happy peo­ple who can adapt and move,” he said.

PAS­SION­ATE AP­PROACH: Charles Duna Pri­mary teacher Jar­ren Gan­giah joined the school through Nel­son Man­dela Univer­sity’s Cen­tre for the Com­mu­nity School pro­gramme

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