The Herald (South Africa)

Reimaginin­g education at undeserved schools

- 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.

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