An amazing story is being played out at the Uniting reformed Church in Bloemendal where the Church is playing a pioneering role in assisting learners to improve their school results. The project has so far gone under the name of the “Winter School”, but this name has been changed on the suggestion of Sheray Brown to the much more fitting one as “Skool by die Huis”
This morning saw the start of the Winter School 2015, an initiative which is now in its fourth year, started as a way to “get the church out on the streets”, as founding elder Ben Jacobs envisioned it. Photo copied exam papers, a timetable, a kitchen full of supplies and the organizing committee members were all present to get the ball rolling
This morning sixty excited learners gathered just after eight to ensure that their holidays would be spent in furthering their objectives of leaving school with good results. Last year the group grew from 50 to 75, so the expectation is that the numbers will rise as the school continues. Twelve tutors, mainly students from NMMU also showed up, eager to do their part as volunteers to play a key role in the activities of the week.
Four elements which make this project exceptional:
- Community involvement: Many facts evidence this strength. The church council spontaneously pledged R3000,00 when they were reminded that the school will be running again. Many individuals responded and offered help. In addition, many organizations joined in and will be taking responsibility for various aspects of the program. Donations were received so that the project is financially on a sound footing.
- A holistic approach: School subjects are taught during the first four days of the week by teachers and Education students from NMMU, combined with Life skills sessions facilitated by social work students from NMMU. These sessions are directed at developing a positive identity and promoting prosocial behavior amongst the learners. In the week running up to the Winter School: Master students from the Department of Psychology at NMMU conducted a four hour workshop on career development to grade 11 learners. On Sunday 28 June 2015 the evening service was devoted to parents engaging in an interactive service discussing the difference between discipline and punishment, while the youth met in groups to discuss what they needed from their parents. At the end of the service feedback was given in a joint meeting which led to many new insights being formed on both sides. On Friday 03 July (the last day of the Winter School) learners will be taken to the South End Museum where they will tour the Museum, and watch a documentary on the 1990 Northern Areas Uprising. The goal of this visit is to contest the internalized marginalized stereotypes about the community and instead promote a more positive community identity and strengthen social cohesion. On Saturday 3 July a Parenting workshop will be presented to the fathers of the learners, and on Sunday 4 July the Sunday evening service becomes an Appreciation service where learners’ commitment to themselves are acknowledged through the awarding of certificates, witnessed by their parents. During September 2015 participants will be able to join a workshop run by the “Alternative to Violence Project” on “non-violent communication”, as well as one run by the Oldenburg Drama Production students.
- One Driver: Dr Veonna Goliath is a lecturer in Social work at NMMU, and is also a Clinical Psychologist. She grew up in Salt Lake, a suburb in the Northern Areas and has a deep commitment to the young people of this community, combined with a thorough knowledge and understanding of the experience of growing up in this area. She has a vision, and utilizes every possible opportunity to broaden the scope of the project.
- Reverend Hanzline Davids is the Minister of the church, and provides the vital leadership component with which to unite the members of the church and wider community behind the project and become enthusiastic participants.
From the perspective of a person from a different community, this project has the potential to become a very big community development project which can become a major force in the Bloemendal Area. In addition, this Bloemendal Church sets the scene for many other churches to follow suit, and become one of the factors to help improve the crisis in Basic education which limit the development of the youth
Some members of this group Rev Davids, me and Dr Veonna Goliath at a visit to Bayworld with learners (picture on the left) who participated in the 2014 Winter School.
For more information contact Dr Veonna. Goliath @ 0721968083
TCN Coordinator for Education