Three for one in education

Ray Maota

The building that houses Salvazione Christian School is a renovated church.

The music instruments at Salvazione were donated by the three schools.

Salvazione principal Mandy Bailey says this partnership is helping disadvantaged pupils realise their dreams.
(Images: Ray Maota)

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Three private schools in Johannesburg are extending a helping hand to a smaller school for underprivileged pupils, and the positive results of their work are evidence of a strong network with no end in sight.

Many of the pupils at Salvazione Christian School in Mayfair, west of Johannesburg, are from the nearby community of Slovo Park, an informal settlement. They attend school in what used to be a church, but was converted three years ago to accommodate the educational needs of the community’s youngsters.

This was done with the help of parents and pupils at the Ridge, Auckland Park and St Katharine’s preparatory schools, all private institutions that recognised the need to help improve conditions for Salvazione. Through their intervention, the school has managed to introduce extended tuition programmes to help improve pupils’ skills.

Salvazione is an independent school with 262 pupils, with seven classes of about 35 pupils each, taking pupils from grade R to grade 7. Principal Mandy Bailey expressed her joy at having a helping hand, saying that staff feel privileged to have their own premises.

“This wouldn’t have happened without help from the Ridge, who came on board to help when the school was in dire straits,” she said.

The Ridge was the first to associate itself with Salvazione in May 1999, helping the school to set up a board of trustees under the guidance of the Gauteng Education Department (GED). Paul Channon, headmaster at the Ridge, sits on the six-member board.

“Salvazione has come a long way in terms of teaching and facilities,” said Channon. “The parents at the other three schools are to be praised for their hard work in making Salvazione a better school.”

He added that a key part of the programme is to make sure the schools’ methods are not patronising in any way.

Channon also said the programme with Salvazione has an open ended approach and that the Ridge board had decided to put its energies into making the school the best it can be.

Mandy Mitchley, headmistress at St Katharine’s, said the meaningful work on the ground is really done by the parents from the schools.

“One of our teachers, Magri Genovese, a second language practitioner, has been working with teachers from Salvazione and training them on how to teach English as a second language,” said Mitchley. “The pupils’ marks in English have improved, showing the impact of her assistance.”

Extra lessons

Salvazione has nine full-time teachers as well as volunteer teachers who help out purely for the love of their profession.

Although it is independent, the school subscribes to the national education curriculum. Through its link with the other schools it also runs music, art, and reading programmes.

“Parents from the three schools help the pupils with reading once a week on a one-on-one basis,” explained Bailey, adding that this has helped improve the pupils’ marks since the mid-year exams in June.

There is also a feeding scheme to help keep the pupils nourished while they learn, as most of them are not able to have breakfast and cannot bring lunch to school either.

“We give the pupils e’Pap in the morning and sandwiches at lunch,” Bailey said. Those that can pay for their lunch get it from the school’s tuckshop at reasonable prices.

Brenda Howden, principal at the girls-only Auckland Park Prep, spoke of a weekly school programme where her school hosts 20 girls from Salvazione every Saturday to give extra lessons in numeracy, literacy, science and technology.

“We transport the girls to and from Salvazione,” she said, “and we teach them and feed them for the day.” She also mentioned a recent trip to the Johannesburg Zoo as a treat.

“During the course of the year we have ongoing initiatives,” she said. “A number of our parents assist with the weekly reading programme at the school, and we arrange termly activities at different levels.”

Auckland Park Prep teacher Kay Cottrell and her husband donated R100 000 (US$11 473) to Salvazione which they had raised through their 20th appearance at the annual Comrades Marathon, a premier event in road running.

“It is envisaged that this money will go towards assisting with funding of extras such as blazers and books for those going on to high school,” said Howden.

Everyone gets along

Salvazione also has a number of orphans who are exempt from paying school fees as per government policy.

“We at Salvazione are just happy to be giving these underprivileged pupils a good education, so that is why we always make means for a child to be educated, whether they can afford it or not,” said Bailey.

Despite their different backgrounds, Salvazione pupils get along very well with their peers from the benefactors whenever they meet.

“You will not believe the camaraderie between the pupils when they are working together with the children from the three schools. It’s a wonderful sight.”

Outstanding performers from Salvazione get a chance to continue their schooling at the Ridge through a bursary scheme. Other schools that offer similar schemes include St Barnabas, John Orr Technical High School and St Martin de Porres, all of which are also in Johannesburg.