Brainstorming a dream school

Enough is enough, it is time to take action! But this project was always going to be a lot more than merely erecting a building.  None of us have done such a thing before and none of us are teachers.  It is going to be a full time job and we needed someone to kickstart the process.

It just so happened that at this very moment in time, there was a girl sitting in Cape Town thinking about what she really wanted to do with her life. She had just returned from a 7 month jaunt in South America where she had been meaning to make these decisions but there just hadn’t been any time…  She was thinking that she would like to focus on education, that she was particularly interested in implementation of development projects and that she would like some time in the field.

It wasn’t a difficult recruitment job really.  She does happen to be old friends with Dave and Rejane who decided to send her an email suggesting she come to the most beautiful part of the country and work on making a school happen. 

Laura Poswell agrees to come help pull together a concept document, and in fact, the concept itself. She’ll work 2 months for the Bulungula Incubator whereafter she’ll have to return to the jungle of formal work.

So suddenly the schools rehabilitation project has a project manager.  Laura is a development economist who has extensive experience in researching education, poverty, inequality and labour markets in South Africa.  Laura’s last job was a 5 year stint at the Development Policy Research Unit at the University of Cape Town.  Beyond her research she has worked in program management and capacity building, with government, donors and the academic community.  

Our first meeting is held in Cape Town as we all just happen to be there – this is a remarkable achievement in itself and thanks to a couple of friends getting hitched.

 No-ofisi “classroom”

No-ofisi “classroom” with blackboard and bench

We meet at Annette Champion’s house on Sunday evening, 29 April.  Annette is Dave’s mom and happens to be the deputy principal of Herschel Preparatory School – one of the best primary schools in Cape Town.  Annette has a wealth of experience in teaching and school administration and is our official education consultant.  She also cooks up a storm!

Others present are Bulungula Incubator Board members Sonja Giese, children development guru and Lance Greyling, our friendly politician.

Sonja is an independent development consultant with 11 years experience working in the children’s sector.  She has extensive experience in social research, policy analysis and advocacy, programme implementation, management, and monitoring and evaluation. Sonja’s career has focused primarily on addressing issues of concern to children and, more recently, children affected by HIV/AIDS. She is currently working closely with several national and international NGOs and academic institutes.  Prior to becoming a consultant, Sonja was the South African Director of Child Services for an international NGO: ARK (Absolute Return for Kids). At ARK she established programmes aimed at improving access for children and their families, to basic services and State benefits. Sonja also worked for 6 years at the Children’s Institute at the University of Cape Town.

Lance is a Member of the National Parliament representing the Independent Democrats. He is the Chief Whip of the party as well as the National Policy Convenor. His major areas of interests are the environment, rural development, energy and African affairs. Before assuming public office, Lance Greyling was the Regional Programme Manager for GLOBE Southern Africa, where he was in charge of capacitating Members of Parliament in the Southern African region on environmental and sustainable development issues.

The first meeting covers much ground.  We discuss
• our vision for the school
• issues around independent versus government schools and scope for intervention
• how one finds an amazing and suitable principal,
• Sustainability, firstly relating to developing an independently functioning institution and secondly in terms of ensuring that the service the school provides contributes directly to improving rural livelihoods of those living in Nqileni
• Partnering and developing support networks with other schools in the area
• Ensuring the curriculum delivered includes components directly relevant to rural living and enhancing rural livelihood strategies
• Ensuring support from all key stakeholders in our approach: government, community, educators, learners
• How educators should approach the situation of having a wide age range of children in each grade, as their education to date has been so meagre.
• What type of buildings we would choose to erect if we have the choice e.g. comfortable educators accommodation, eco-friendly structures.

Necessary research and future action plans have been identified.  We are on our way.

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