Annette Champion recently joined the Bulungula Incubator team, to head up our education portfolio. With 36 years experience in education, Annette is an incredible resource for the BI! We are extremely fortunate to have her on our team and grateful that she has agreed to give up the luxuries of Cape Town to share in the adventures of Bulungula.
Here are her reflections on the first two weeks – since the Jujurha Early Learning Centre opened in our new premises.
Our first 2 weeks, since opening on 27 July, have gone incredibly smoothly and happily. The school is a hive of activity from 08:00 until late in the afternoons. Early mornings see 46 little figures converging on the Centre from all the surrounding hills and they head straight for the jungle gym, sandpit and other playground equipment, often to secure their favourite spot or toy! Their enthusiastic teachers and assistants welcome the children into their classes soon afterwards before everyone lines up for handwashing and a plate of hot porridge.
The morning programme of activities includes indoor and outdoor play. The children are enthralled by the wonderful assortment of games, puzzles, building blocks (a great favourite) and soft toys and dolls – and the dolls’ house. Books and stories, songs and dance are all woven into the programme so that, for the first time in their lives, these children are being offered a rich and varied experience which stimulates their imaginations, broadens their knowledge and equips them with the essential skills for future learning. They are extremely independent, very capable physically – for example on the playground equipment – but a 4- piece puzzle is a mystery to most and all other developmental milestones are severely stunted. Fortunately, early interventions such as we are able to offer, will give these children an excellent chance to catch up.
A mid-morning snack of fruit precedes their outdoor playtime, and a hot dinner, prepared by the 2 mothers on duty for the day, signals the end of the school day. Chatting and laughing, they wander home in groups, often stopping to talk or look at something, as they head for their homes. Not long afterwards, some children from the local government school, from Grades R to 3, arrive to play on the outdoor equipment. These children will be offered the educational support programme in the afternoons in due course.
It has been heart warming to note the great interest shown in the classrooms and teaching materials – and the whole Centre – by adult members of the community, including the builders on site, as well as many visitors to Bulungula Lodge.
The success of the first 2 weeks can be ascribed to excellent planning and preparation, founded as it was on the initial 5 months’ experience in the temporary class, as well as the wonderful facilities and teaching materials from our generous donors, the Bulungula Incubator team, the enthusiastic and committed teachers and, most importantly the strong support of the Nqileni community.