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