Edu Fun is organised, run and staffed by volunteers who give their time for free. This means all donations and funds raised are used for the group’s programmes, teaching materials and school supplies; health checks and medical expenses; materials for mending torn uniforms; as well as educational and social activities, such as trips to the zoo and student graduations. (Images: Edu Fun)
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Melissa Jane Cook
Aristotle once said: “Those who know, do. Those who understand, teach.” It’s a driving idea behind Edu Fun, a non-profit organisation that believes if you educate a child for a day, they will remember it that day; but if you bring fun into it, they will remember it for life.
Edu Fun is organised, run and staffed by volunteers who give their time for free. This means all donations and funds raised are used for the group’s programmes, teaching materials and school supplies; health checks and medical expenses; materials for mending torn uniforms; as well as educational and social activities, such as trips to the zoo and student graduations.
The group works with Diepsloot Combined School in Diepsloot, a township in Joburg’s far northern reaches. Its main objective is to teach English to students in grades 3 and 4 students in an entertaining and stimulating way, encouraging them to open their minds and use their imaginations. Diepsloot is a poor area and local resources are limited. Classes at the school are very large and English is not the first language of their teachers. Edu Fun’s aim is to help the children with reading, writing and speaking English, so difficulties in using the language will not be a barrier in their futures.
Key members of Edu Fun are experienced teachers and nursing professionals. The volunteers come from all walks of life – locals, ex-pats and visitors from around the world. Lord Joel Joffe, the human rights lawyer who defended Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki and seven others in the Rivonia Trial of 1963-64, is the patron.
Diepsloot Combined School
When the school opened in 2001, it was simply a collection of mobile classrooms with few facilities. Today, thanks to the dedication of its staff and the support of the Adopt-a-School Foundation, various corporate sponsors and voluntary groups such as Edu Fun and School Aid, it is a beacon of hope for the disadvantaged community of Diepsloot informal settlement.
Catering for more than 1 500 pupils from Grade R to Grade 12, it is a government school that is not only a centre for learning but is also a much-needed refuge and valuable source of food for the most under-privileged youngsters in the township. In 2013, the Grade 12 students gained an impressive matric pass rate of 98.8%; 29 of them achieved university entry-level grades.
Edu Fun aims to support the school in its long-term goal of helping its students go on to further education and fulfill their potential.
A decade ago, a group of volunteers – many of them ex-pats – took up the challenge to improve the chances of the underprivileged children of Diepsloot. Edu Fun still brings fun to education and hope for a brighter future to the school.
Volunteers teach English to the children on Mondays and Tuesdays. Lessons for Grade 3s run for almost an hour-and-a-half on Mondays during term. Classes are divided, based on ability, into three groups. There is a lead teacher for each class responsible for lesson design and delivery. Each classroom has about 30 children and a volunteer works with a group of about six children. The teaching materials are provided by Edu Fun.
About 20 Grade 4s need additional help with English. Volunteers teach them English on Tuesdays during term time, and classes run for an hour. On Monday mornings, after the Grade 3 English classes, a group of volunteers spends about two hours mending school uniforms. All tools and materials are provided and no experience is necessary. They also plan to start training a few of the older students at the school to help out with this project.
Also on Monday mornings during term time, volunteers can help the Spread a Little Love project by making peanut butter sandwiches or buying bags of apples for the children. These donations provide a filling start to the week, on average, for more than 300 pupils.
In 2013, Edu Fun’s 10th anniversary year, it introduced a fourth group, the Further Education Project, to support former learners from Diepsloot Combined School who go on to university. At present, it supports three first generation students at university in Pretoria, helping them with everyday expenses, extra tuition, computer equipment and accommodation.
The Edu Fun educational programme at Diepsloot Combined School was started by Avril Donnelly, Petra Michelson and Sandy and Miguel Buchwald, an American couple now retired in the US.
Donnelly explains: “We have taught about 1 100 children over the years and the first group that we taught in 2003 matriculated in 2013. It really gives me a sense of satisfaction. I can only say that through this programme I have met some wonderful expats (both men and women) who have helped us with the teaching, nursing, Spread a Little Love and mending groups. The nursing group was started by a group of Swedish ladies, led by Maria Junebrink, who didn’t want to teach but wanted to give to the community. It has gone from strength to strength. I love what we are doing with Edu Fun and it has really become a passion in my life.”