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The Place Where the Sun Rises

Elangabini Primary School is set high on a hill in KwaZulu-Natal, in an area outside Durban called Mpumalanga which means ‘the place where the sun rises’. No wonder I was confused by my GPS, because I now learn that this area was so named long before the new provincial name for the then Eastern Transvaal came into being.

Although the primary school of 640 learners is in a rural area, the school grounds are well-kept and neat, and the school has an air of discipline about it. Our #Journey2 road trip team arrive as the outdoors assembly is ending. The whole school is lined up neatly in rows according to grades and the children are waiting patiently for each class to peel away, one at a time with boys and girls holding hands in crocodile chains.

This is our third school on this road trip that sits within the Old Mutual Education Flagship Project (OMEFP). As mentioned in previous posts, in 2013 Old Mutual spearheaded a national education initiative, to invest R350 million over seven years into under-resourced schools in key provinces. Although the overarching goal of the OMEFP is to increase the number of Grade 12 bachelor passes among learners who have maths and science in their subject choice, it’s a fact that education initiatives are most effective when started at junior grades so as to embed fundamental knowledge and attitudes.

In this province, the OMEFP is partnering with the KZN Department of Education and PILO (Programme to Improve Learning Outcomes) to roll out the Jika iMfundo initiative across various school districts, of which Mpumalanga is one. One of the biggest problems occurring in schools today is curriculum content not being fully covered within the school year. Jika iMfundo, which means ‘changing education’, addresses this problem by breaking down the annual curriculum into daily learning plans. Additionally, all learning resources (posters, videos, supplementary books etc.) are provided so teachers have the necessary materials on hand for each lesson.

When we speak to school principal Mrs Beauty Mkhongi, she describes the process that’s unfolded during the last year to get participating schools onto the Jika iMfundo programme. “When it was first introduced to us, many of our teachers were initially apprehensive. It seemed to be a lot of paperwork and books, and teachers were anxious they were going to be constantly ‘checked up’. But they’ve since come to experience the lessons plans as a wonderful structure that aids them in the classroom and the lessons are now easy to prepare for. As a principal, I can now track exactly where each of my teachers are in the curriculum and if we’re on schedule as a school.”

Elangabini Primary School principal, Mrs Beauty Mkhongi (centre) reviews the Jika iMfundo curriculum tracker, supported by her two deputy principals.

The school management team has also started a year-long leadership and management programme with SEED. Mrs Mkhongi comments, “They taught us about teamwork so that everyone can contribute.” Another initiative provided to participating OMEFP schools is an online app that helps principals to monitor the daily attendance of both teachers and learners. Mrs Mkhongi proudly takes out her smartphone to show us that Elangabini is currently at 93%.

Later in the morning, our team heads off to the offices of the local Department of Education to meet the school’s circuit manager, Mr Tom Sokhela who has 36 schools under his jurisdiction. He tells us in detail about the positive impact the Jika iMfundo initiative is having in schools where the programme is being piloted, with other schools now clamouring to get onto the programme. He recounts one example of a school last year where the educators picked up they were behind on the school learning schedule and opted to commit extra personal time with their classes until they caught up with their curriculum. It seems that good things are underway in KZN and one can only hope the impact and momentum of these combined initiatives gains traction quickly.

Mark explains, “In one class the teacher was talking about public holidays, and specifically Heritage Day and what it meant to celebrate our heritage and culture. So this one child got up to demonstrate traditional dance as part of her culture.”

Post index:

And we’re off!
Growing green futures
For the love of reading
Paying it forward
In the heat of the moment
The road to Camdeboo
The light of one small candle
Investing for the future
The building blocks of business
A heart for horses
Mining for talent
My ability is greater than my disability
To be a nurse, you must be love
There’s no such thing as ‘the voiceless’
Mark my words
The place where the sun rises
Welcome to your future
Strengthening families 

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