Kwasa Newsletter No.6

Kwasa Newsletter No.6 - 2019/20
Posted Mar 2020

The Goal:

2027: a 1,000 pupil 3-18 yr independent, low fee Anglican college.

The Vision:

Quality education for the young people of Daggafontein to enable them to reverse the cycle of poverty in which they live.

Daggafontein:

An Informal settlement of more than 15,000 people on the outskirts of Springs, 30 miles east of Johannesburg

Kwasa College:

A South African non-profit social enterprise, led by Sharron Dinnie, to provide low fee, independent education for the children of Daggafontein.

341

Children educated daily

151,000

Nutritious meals served p.a

58

UK educational bursaries funded

16

Vulnerable children looked after

INTRODUCTION

With the continuing help of all of Kwasa’s supporters around the world, Kwasa College has again had a very successful year. In Newsletter No. 5 we revisited progress over the 8 years we have been working with Sharron. In this newsletter, we will cover the changes and developments that have happened in the January 2019-January 2020 year.

Annie, Jan, Phil and I visited the school in March 2019, with a focus on pre-school outdoor learning, and Annie and I returned in November 2019 for a broader conversation with Sharron on finances, progress and strategy and to agree plans for the building works in 2020.

The challenges are constant, but the successes are real and clear. 341 young people are benefiting from an education that is lifting their their aspirations and equipping them to escape their life of poverty, ill health, domestic and sexual violence, and low life expectancy.

THE STUDENTS AND TEACHERS AT KWASA

Grades 1-7 now number 207 students age 6-12, very nearly full, with a further 134 3-5 year olds in the Pre-school.

The oldest students have just entered Grade 7, their final year of Primary education at Kwasa. We have followed these students since they enrolled at Pre-School in 2011 – and what a huge change we have seen. Over these 10 years, their confidence, aspirations, mastery of the English and Afrikaans languages they will need in High School, and their acquisition of skills and knowledge across the full South African education curriculum are clear to see.

Eventually, the plan is for Kwasa students to continue their education at Kwasa until they matriculate at Grade 12. Until we have the infrastructure and staffing for a High School within Kwasa, Sharron’s shorter term plan is to find places in local high schools for the Grade 7 students when they graduate in December, and to find the funds to pay the school fees for these students.

On the staffing side, there have been further changes which have strengthened the teaching staff. Owen Thomas is now in his second year as Head of Primary, and has taken the lead in finding ways to motivate and reward students. Gill Edgar has retired as Head of Pre-school, and Sonja Van Loggerenberg has been promoted as her replacement. 12 of the 13 class teachers and school leadership are now qualified teachers.

On their visit in March, Jan and Annie worked further with the Pre-school staff team, building their confidence to plan, collaborate and deliver valuable student learning through outdoor play.

STUDENT WELLBEING AND ENRICHMENT

An exciting new project was being unveiled when we visited in November. An engineering company, Atlas Copco, from Boksburg has adopted Kwasa as one of its Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment charities. They invested in 3 large net agri-tunnels, employed agricultural consultants to work with Kwasa, funded and trained 2 workers from the settlement and drilled a second borehole. When we visited in November, the tunnels were filled with organic, pesticide free tomatoes, beet and spinach (more like our Chard), and the crops were being harvested and used by the school cooks in the lunchtime meals.

Spare produce will be sold to parents and the wider Daggafontein community, and a second crop will be seeded and harvested in the first half of 2020.

The primary objective is to increase the nutritional intake of the Kwasa students in one or both of their daily meals at the school. It is also setting an example to students and parents of the importance of fresh vegetables in their diets.

2019 got off to a wonderful start with a visit to Kwasa by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the USA, Michael Curry. (Bishop Michael will be remembered in the UK for his recent sermon at the wedding of Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex). Sharron reported that he was presented with a picture of all the Kwasa children “to remember us by!”

The “Teach a Child to Swim” programme organised by St. Dunstan’s College continued this year, with Grades 1 to 4 attending. Some children were invited to swim at Roedean Girls school. St. Dunstan’s also invited the Grade 1, 2 and 3 Netball and Football teams to participate in a tournament where they all did very well, as they did at a local tournament arranged by Selcourt Primary School in Springs.

ASSETS AND INFRASTRUCTURE

It has been a really busy year for Sharron, Patrick Jardine (the trustee who spends every Friday on site planning and managing the building programmes) and Gordon the builder!

Two new classrooms were constructed during the year, in the same ‘dual’ model as the others. Building consent took significantly longer, due a more complicated raft being required, but Gordon and his team of builders completed the works just before the Christmas ‘summer’ break, and it was ready for occupancy by the new grade 7 students this January 2020.

Funds for the classrooms came from UK donors, via West Green Charitable trust – each classroom costs in the region of £50,000.

A second build project saw completion of a new Art room, which will provide opportunities for a wide range of art classes including painting, ceramics, and textiles art. This was completed, just, before the students came back after the summer break. A generous donor linked to St Peter’s College in Johannesburg provided substantial funding, and the Grade 11 students from St Peter’s became bricklayers for a week before Gordon and his team provided the finishing touches!

In year 3 of what has become a 4 year project to rebuild/renovate the White Building into a school hall, offices and much much more, last year saw the completion of windows, the stage structure, and 2nd fix electrics throughout. The plans for 2020 include a new concrete floor, external doors, internal plastering, a computer/media room, toilet blocks and a clinic.

A donation from a US donor enabled the installation of a new ‘jungle gym’ play area for use by the pre-school children, replacing old iron structures which had started to become dangerous.

Kwasa College now has its own web site, www.kwasacollege.org – again, through the efforts of three individuals from North Carolina.

And finally, a further highlight this year was the donation from Holy Trinity in Guildford enabling the purchase of a new, larger Bus in which to transport students. The old vehicle can now be given a much lighter schedule after serving so well for so long.
So, beyond 2020? The Kwasa Board has decided to move from single to two form entry throughout the Primary school. This is being planned for January 2022, and will require replication of the current classroom stock – a not insubstantial building and financial challenge!

ECONOMIC SUSTAINABILITY

Bursaries which pay for children to attend Kwasa who otherwise would be unable to afford the school fees have grown again this year. A huge thank you to the 41 individuals and companies from the UK who are providing 58 bursaries for students with their monthly donations.

The Board of Trustee’s decision this year move to 2-form entry for the Primary school in 2022, and to delay transition from Primary to full Secondary/High School provision, is based on a sensible assessment that the latter move will be more sustainable from a larger 2-form entry pupil (and income) base.

A knock on effect is that for the near future Grade 7 students graduating will need to found places in Springs and Benoni High Schools. Sharron will be seeking sponsorship for these fees, and where possible, applying for school scholarships, to facilitate student access to High School for all Kwasa Grade 7’s.

One big positive is that in 2019, for the first time since our involvement with Kwasa, the funding from the Department for Education (some 20% of Kwasa income) was paid, on time and without reduction, and the signs are that this will continue going forward.

Looking wider, the town of Springs is showing signs of revitalisation and regeneration, which in turn will improve employment prospects. Fibre broadband is creeping nearer, reaching Benoni last year – this year Springs, and maybe even Kwasa in the near future.

The South African government plans for 30 mega cities across the country include Daggafontein Megacity. On the derelict land that surrounds Kwasa College site on three sides, a R7.1 billion (£400 million) development project is now under way. Civil engineering works have commenced on utility and electricity supply. On an area of 750 hectares, the plan is to provide “the answer to getting rid of informal settlements”: 17,500 owner occupied and subsidised dwellings; 3 schools (assumed Kwasa plus 2 other); sports and recreation facilities; medical services; and urban agriculture. 7,500 temporary jobs are predicted, with 3,500 jobs post completion, currently scheduled for 2027.

A link to Daggafontein Mega City (Kwasa, visible by its oval running track is positioned adjacent to Portion A, Extension 6):
VIEW LINK HERE

Watch this space!

A THANK YOU!

All of this has been made possible by the passion and drive of Sharron, and by the unflagging support of all of you. Every pound you donate through West Green charity goes to Kwasa as we have no administrative or other costs. Thank you!

Finally, from World Food Day October 2019 – a short video from The Travelling Glutton food truck which donated profits from the day to Kwasa:

— Grade 5 student in conversation with a visiting UK headteacher “Next time you come back, could you teach us about geology … I want to know about rocks on the moon”

“… so we can make a better future for ourselves”

 

Please continue to support Kwasa


Kwasa Newsletter No.5

Kwasa Newsletter No.5 - 2018

The Goal:

2027: a 1,000 pupil 3-18 yr independent, low fee Anglican college.

The Vision:

Quality education for the young people of Daggafontein to enable them to reverse the cycle of poverty in which they live.

Daggafontein:

An Informal settlement of more than 15,000 people on the outskirts of Springs, 30 miles east of Johannesburg

Kwasa College:

A South African non-profit social enterprise, led by Sharron Dinnie, to provide low fee, independent education for the children of Daggafontein.

308

Children educated daily

135,000

Nutritious meals served p.a

45

UK educational bursaries funded

16

Vulnerable children looked after

INTRODUCTION

It has been another year of huge achievements in the development of Kwasa College. Our most recent visit to Kwasa at the end of last year focussed our minds not just on these achievements but on the developments that have taken place over the past eight years since we first became involved with Sharron and the school. It is also worth reminding ourselves that without the vision of Sharron Dinnie, and the financial support of the many individuals in the UK, the USA and SA, the students you will hear of in this newsletter would have had no education, and little chance of escaping their life of poverty, ill health, domestic and sexual violence, and low life expectancy.

STUDENT DEVELOPMENT

Our visit to Kwasa in October 2018 really highlighted the huge personal development that has taken place for so many of the students.
Over the eight years we have seen the students gain enormously in their personal confidence. So many of them are now able to engage with visitors, to question, to solve problems and to talk with assurance and aspiration about their lives and their futures.

The students at all grades take pride in their school and education. They want to be at school and they see the necessity of working hard to please, and to achieve.

They are proud of their school uniform and amazingly, given the conditions in which they live, they do regular homework and come to school wearing shoes, and clean white shirts and socks. They also have had a number of ‘first’ experiences.

— Grade 5 student in conversation with a visiting UK headteacher “Next time you come back, could you teach us about geology … I want to know about rocks on the moon”

Are you proud of your school? “Yes ….. because I and my friend Ashley have been here since we were babies…..because we the Grade 5’s have been through all the classes, and we are the first ones”.

In 2018, Kwasa students competed successfully against other independent schools at netball and football. Grades 1, 2 and 3 students learnt to swim at a local swimming school. All the Primary girls have just been on their first ever residential camp. Students have welcomed visitors from the UK and the US. They sang with the choir from St. Martins in the Field. Older students have attended workshops on bullying. Junior and Senior choirs have sung in the Springs music festival. All students enjoyed a Christmas party, sponsored by a local transport company.

In stark contrast to our early visits to Kwasa, the students’ confidence is now matched by extremely high aspirations. They want to be nurses, teachers, pilots, scientists, accountants and police officers.

We have witnessed their achievements over the years, whether in the pre-school or as they have progressed through the Primary grades. Their thirst for knowledge, interest in others (and other parts of the world), language acquisition (at the age of 3-5 learning the new languages of English and Afrikaans to add to the several African languages they speak at home), academic, scholarship and sporting achievements are evident at all stages, and in all aspects of the school.

“Is it true in England that it is always cold?”

“At your schools, do you learn French?….. In England is there a school where they teach Spanish?"

“Is it true that dinosaurs are the ancestors of chickens?”

There are still many challenges to overcome. All the students have experienced first hand or at close hand, difficult personal experiences; deaths of parents and siblings, violence, crime, living with HIV/Aids, mothers working as prostitutes, alcoholic and drug dependent parents. They live in extreme poverty, some in child headed households, many in families that have no work. The settlement housing is poor – shacks built from salvaged materials, with no sanitation, and only a few stand pipes for fresh water. Many have experienced an early childhood without play, exploration or stimulation. They have little access to healthcare or dentistry, other than that sourced by Kwasa staff; as well as those who live with HIV, burns from stovepipes and infections in cuts are common. And from an early age, the Kwasa students live at risk of the danger of domestic violence, abuse and child rape

Knowing this, their achievements over the last eight years have been inspiring, and highlight the huge potential that these students have.

LEARNING AND TEACHING AT KWASA

When we fist met the Kwasa staff in 2011, the majority of them were unqualified. Today 11 of the 14 class teachers and school leadership team are qualified teachers.

In Early Years there has been a gradual but noticeable and definite development from passive to active learning; the children learning through play, making choices, and having opportunities to experience and explore. This vital development is planned to expand year by year through the Pre-Primary grades and will over time impact the whole school. This is so important because the children have little experience of play, decision making, exploration in their own home environments, and the skills this approach develops are essential if the students are to grow into ambitious independent young adults.

The appointment of Owen Thomas as Head of Primary from January 2019 is an enormous step forward for Kwasa. For the first time Sharron is supported by an experienced educationalist and school leader with responsibility for inspiring and managing the school teaching staff and driving educational improvement and student attainment.

More parents are now making an active choice to send their children to Kwasa. Grades 1-6 now number 177 students, very nearly full. We were so impressed in October to see parents queuing to register their children to start the Pre-Primary in January.

Significant challenges remain. It is difficult to attracting young, dynamic teachers who find jobs in more affluent and less challenging schools more attractive geographically and financially than a career at Kwasa. With this struggle to recruit an influx of new young teacher talent, development of the quality of teaching so that it becomes more dynamic, active, appropriate and varied will take time.

PHYSICAL CHANGES IN THE SCHOOL

The first classrooms at Kwasa in 2010 were not fit for purpose comprising a derelict mine clinic building, open to the elements, and a repurposed shipping container with windows cut in the steel sides. Kwasa today has the look and feel of a quality educational institution. It has new, purpose built classrooms, 2 for the Pre-school, and 6 in Primary, and high quality toilet blocks.

The original site was a rented hectare of derelict land with a disused mine clinic and general store buildings. The mine workings were left uncapped by Anglo American when they closed the mine in the 1950’s. Today, Kwasa College owns the 21Hectare site outright, and has just been granted re-zoning approval for educational use, removing any doubt about its future. The fully secure school site houses classrooms, a chapel, sports fields and netball courts, safe play areas and a purpose built outdoor learning area for Early Years, two boarding houses for vulnerable students, a kitchen, water boreholes, a biomass plant generating methane from food waste, and a thriving vegetable plot.

Progress 2014-2018

Progress 2014-2018

Progress 2015-2018

Known as the ‘White Building,’ the structure that used to house the mine general store had become home to 200 squatters, drinking and drug dens and worse. Sharron negotiated the move of the illegal residents and over the past three years the 17,000 sq ft. complex has been transformed into a school/sports hall with a raised stage. The hall can accommodate seating for 500 pupils and will generate external lettings income. It also includes offices and a meeting room, and in the near future will provide a library, media centre and community clinic.

There remain many challenges. The school does not yet have a broadband or internet capability. A further classroom block is required to accommodate Grade 7 students in January 2020. The amazing sports/assembly hall, whilst completed externally, requires internal fit-out (electrics, toilet block, flooring), and the library and clinic need to be established in some of the remaining spaces. The new classrooms, hall and library need to be resourced with furniture, books, and technology.

LEADERSHIP, GOVERNANCE AND FINANCE

The transition of the school, initially an off-shoot of an Anglican Diocese ‘safe space’ project, to a fully autonomous College, registered as a charity and non-profit and approved by the Dept of Education, has been hard fought. Today, Kwasa is governed by a board of trustees, led by Sharron, which has a clear vision of Kwasa as a high achieving educational institution. Supporting Sharron are Michael McConnachie (Rector/College Head, St Dunstan’s Anglican College), Patrick Jardine (Vice Chair of Council, St Dunstan’s), Kedi Maponyane (a Gauteng business woman), Philip de Jager (a Benoni/Springs attorney), and Michael Jon Van Loggeren (Sharron’s son, an chartered accountant and MD of a multinational steel company). Sharron in turn is invited to attend the Board of Trustees of St Dunstan’s.

Patrick Jardine, Michael-Jon van Loggerenberg and Philip de Jager with Own Thomas and Sharron Dinnie. In absentia: Mike McConnachie and Kedi Maponyane.

From its inception as a small pre-school managed by Sharron part-time, the College has now developed an established management structure. Sharron leads the Kwasa Board, setting the vision and building external support relationships. Owen Thomas as Head of Primary is responsible for teaching and learning, staff development and recruitment, behaviour management and the day to day running. This Head of School role, which Owen took up at the start of the January 2019 school year, has been funded by a US donor who has committed to 5 years funding.

Management and financial accounts are now prepared regularly by a qualified finance person seconded from a supportive local firm, enabling monthly management accounts and 5 year forecasting for the first time. The school’s main sources of funds are government grant funding (29%), fees paid by parents/families (27%) bursaries for 45 children funded by sponsorship (10%) and other donations/support (35%). Staff costs account for 76% of expenses, with site security a further 10%. In 2018, the school budget was R2.9m or £160,000.

The challenge is that without donations, gifts and bursary sponsorship, the school operates at an annual deficit of R1.4m or £75,000. Funding to cover staff salaries continues to be an enormous challenge. School fees are set at a very low level (R5,400 or £300 per year), but still half of parents/carers are unable to pay. The notional state subsidy of R10,000 (£500 per pupil per year) is 13% of that funded for UK state schools; and this subsidy was slashed by 2/3rds for 2019 due to ‘unavailability’ of municipal state funds. There is no state funding for capital projects; the new classrooms required for January 2020 will need to be funded from donations. In the longer term the school needs to expand to 2-form entry to be sustainable; this will require a further 7 classrooms, a very big commitment for the Kwasa Board to undertake.

“You can’t get a job without learning, without an education”

“… because you learn new things every day"

“I want to be an accountant”

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION

Despite the many challenges ahead, it is hugely encouraging to look back and see amazing developments in all areas of the College.

It is easy to forget Kwasa’s impact on individual children. The work of Sharron, the rest of the staff team, and all of the school’s supporters is transforming lives. Every day over 300 children from the Daggafontein settlement attend Kwasa and receive an education. When they have the opportunity to come to a school with purpose built classrooms, qualified teachers, toilets, food, resources, and people who care, they are being shown that they are worth something, they have potential, they can aspire to and achieve a better life. They could not experience this without the help of all of you.

HOW CAN YOU HELP?

West Green Charity has committed to helping Sharron to deliver on her vision.
We have no charity overheads with the exception of accounting fees and bank charges; all funds raised for Kwasa benefit Kwasa.

We, and Sharron, would like to say a huge thank you to all of you who have contributed so generously already.

We need more individuals and families committing £25/month by direct debit, to fund a bursary to pay the fees to enable a child to be educated at Kwasa. Please spread the word!

If you know someone who would like to know more about the Student Sponsorship Scheme, please drop me an email, to richbenton@aol.com.

As always, any further donations will be gratefully received, either by BACS;
Account Name; The West Green Charitable Trust
Sort Code; 15-99-00
Account Number; 78294260
or by cheque payable to:
‘The West Green Charitable Trust’ to; Flint Barn, Rookwood Lane, Medstead, GU34 5QE, UK.

Otherwise, we would love you just to stay in touch by receiving these newsletters, and visiting us at westgreencharity.org

Thank you from Rich, Annie, Jan, Phil and Sharron

“… so we can make a better future for ourselves”

 

Please continue to support Kwasa