So its day three of our IWitness trip in South Africa and waking up it was a completely different climate, much warmer than the previous morning. Today we travelled to the province of Mpumalangaand visited two different schools not too far from one another, Langa High School and Hokwe Primary School. The drive up was spectacular with views out across large valleys dotted with households. After a good 30 minute drive we arrived at Langa where the welcome was extraordinary, with traditional dancing and drums beating as majorettes lead us into the compound. Here we met the principal (since 2012), school governing bodies and SMT (School Management Team). Not to forget Ceffie the Rhino who is the mascot for the Child Friendly Schools initiative.
After the welcome the students went back to class as it was important that we did not disrupt the learning for the day. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to split into small groups to observe classes. A group of us joined grade 11 in their accounting class where a small number of students only 15 of them, discussed the costs of running a manufacturing company. Others sat in on a Biology class. This experience was much more informative than any presentation or statistical grade review done by the management. We were able to observe the quality of education the children receive through the interaction and participation in class. UNICEF works with the government to provide schools with workbooks which help improve literacy, numeracy, science and domestic skills. These books are mostly in English providing an extra challenge for the students however it was easy to see that the level of learning is of a very high standard. The learners amazed us by being so well behaved and eager to help each other out as each student was encouraged to contribute to the lesson.
This behaviour didn’t seem like it was just for us as they had so much respect for their teachers and principal. It was just lovely to see how relaxed the relationship is between the pupils and educators. After speaking with a few of the children it was clear how important school was to each and every individual. Not only did it give them an education and a place to socialise but it gave the children a place to feel safe, a meal for the day, healthcare but most of all school gives them choices and options with their life, it gives them a future. We could see how much the children appreciates those things in their determination to get to school each day and work hard to reach their ambitions.
Langa High School has vastly improved their children’s educational requirements as well as participate in the Child Friendly School scheme initiated by UNICEF, allowing them to develop their fullest potential in a safe space. With many children aspiring to be engineers, doctors and scientists.
The second part of the day was at Hokwe primary school with a total of 284 students including 55 grade R students (reception age 5-6). This school has been open since 1983 and faced many challenges since, such as a storm in 2002 that destroyed and washed away part of the school. We began by visiting the grade R class (Reception), full of little ones from the age of 5. Almost 50 children were quietly seated on a floor mat in the corner of the room as the two teachers discussed their learning programme. To show off the childrens skills a few little ones were asked to draw for us. They took out a sheet of paper and one child began to draw different shapes while another drew for us the cutest version of a happy child.
Afterwards we moved into the teachers lounge to be shown a play by the grade R’s. They reenacted the process of going to the doctors with a health problem, being diagnosed and getting medication. It was a wonderful performance that taught the children the importance of visiting the doctor when they feel unwell.
We were led outside and the students continue with traditional dancing (of which Paul Fishwick and Johanna Heuren joined in!). The atmosphere was fantastic with the most satisfying part being the smiles on the children’s faces.
The headmaster discussed some opportunities he believed would improve the everyday lives of the children. One of these was having play equipment for the young ones such as swings. They do have a big field where they play and where they can let their steam off, but swings also help children practice their balance and improve their coordinated movements.
When they rebuilt the school they also built several toilets which are WASH certified, meaning Water And Sanitation Hygiene approved. Another fantastic initiative is that the school grow their own vegetables (tomatoes, onions, cabbage etc.). That is sustainability at is best!
Thanks to UNICEF and the support of Ikea through the Soft Toy Campaign, children in South Africa have the chance to learn and thrive. The children we visited today were extremely happy and have the opportunity to have a brighter future through education. What made this school even more inspiring was the strong support the school had from the principle to the school governing body. It was again another inspiring day.