Dog Kennel Hill’s partnership with Xolani Primary School in Guguletu, Cape Town, South Africa.
Dog Kennel Hill Primary School first became linked with Xolani Primary School in 2004. We were part of a 3-year global partnership project managed by the British Council and funded by Old Mutual Bank. It was a highly stimulating, rewarding and exciting project which formally ended in 2007 but we are very pleased to have continued the links between our schools since then. It has been wonderful that DKH parents and friends have been raising funds for much-appreciated resources at our twin school, Xolani, for several years.
During the project Dog Kennel HilI staff visited and taught at Xolani School and Xolani teachers also came to London and taught at DKH. Of the current DKH staff Robyn Harrison and Katherine Nicholls travelled to Guguletu twice, staying with teachers there and making a really invaluable contribution to the success of the project. I have felt privileged to have been able to visit Xolani almost every year since 2004, becoming firm friends with the principal, Mrs Jackie (Silele) Ngesi, and getting to know and love Guguletu and the Xolani community well. I last visited the school in January 2009 taking £400 of resources from DKH to Xolani. Your fundraising provided pencils, pens, rubbers and rulers and lovely, illustrated books for every class as well as CD players for every year group. This was a tremendous help for classes there at the beginning of their new school year.
Here is some background information about Xolani School and education in township schools of the Western Cape Education Board.
Xolani Public Primary School
Xolani Public Primary School in Guguletu township is struggling desperately against a bureaucracy that still disadvantages poor black families of the Cape. There is a huge difference in the facilities and resources of schools like Xolani and those of the Former Whites Only (FWO) Schools in Cape Town.
Here are some facts about our partner school:-
- There are about 500+ children aged 4/5 to 12 years in 12 or 13 classes. 2 new reception classes were set up during 2009/10.
- All children speak Xhosa as their first language. They are taught in Xhosa (in all subjects for the younger children) and English. Children are also taught Afrikaans. This is Western Cape Education Board policy.
- Many of the children live in shacks or makeshift housing.
- Most of the children and their families are affected by HIV/Aids and other health problems such as tuberculosis. Many children are carers for sick adults and look after younger siblings and many children have lost their parents, being brought up by other family members. There is massive unemployment in the townships. Families of staff of the school are also affected by HIV/Aids as well as suffering economic hardship.
- Most teachers trained pre-1994 (end of apartheid), when training for black teachers was not as good as that for other teachers.
- Jackie Ngesi is a charismatic and active head teacher who promotes a broad, stimulating education for Xolani children, including environmental and gardening projects which benefit the community as well as the school. They have recently set up a large greenhouse where all classes grow vegetables. The community also use Xolani grounds for growing food.
- The school buildings are in need of updating. There is a problem with break-ins and burglaries. Part of the playground now has a tarmac surface (thanks to a German charity) so children can enjoy sports activities (very, very popular in South Africa!). The backdrop to Xolani’s playground is the beautiful Table Mountain. Xolani School is very short of sports equipment.
- The school has positive links with Kirstenbosch Gardens (Cape Town’s equivalent of Kew Gardens) and Old Mutual Bank.
- Xolani School has started chess recently. Two pupils (one a girl) have done very well, beating children at FWO schools.
General funding background
Until very recently the funding for schools worked in ways which continue to disadvantage schools like Xolani. Local government funding is based primarily on the January roll of children. Funding is allocated per capita. But it is insufficient and schools need top-up from parents’ fees. This top-up is essential for the running of a school, not a luxury.
Per capita funding depends, for equality, on a stable school population. Funding is based on January roll, but takes no account of the mobility of township families, many of which will have moved from the shacks/shanty towns during the long summer break (mid Dec to mid-Jan) either back to Transkei or to other parts of Cape Town or will have been rehoused in newly-built brick blocks but not near to Xolani School. So… if Xolani is funded for 400 children in January, then the roll builds up to 500 as families return, the school is left even more short of resources than normal for the rest of school year. This results in larger class sizes. And when it comes to top-up fees, Xolani parents are only asked for about £10 a year, but many cannot afford to pay this and FWO schools have much greater income because their parents’ fees are much higher and most parents can afford them.
Apart from these 2 disadvantages, the legacy of apartheid brings many inequalities to schools like Xolani, such as…
- schools buildings and grounds are less good/well-maintained
- poor resources and equipment from the past results in nothing to fall back on
- disruption of electricity supplies because of constant road repairs in township. This means access to ICT more limited at Xolani than in FWO schools
Mrs Jackie (Silele) Ngesi
Jackie comes from a family background in the Transkei (in the Eastern Cape), as do most Xhosa speaking black South Africans (including Nelson Mandela). Born in a multi-racial part of Cape Town, now non-existent, she and her family were forcibly moved to black township of Guguletu after the Group Areas Act of 1950, which was being enforced throughout the late 50s and 60s. She attended Xolani School as a child, now she’s the principal. Her husband, Edward, died in car crash in Transkei 4 years ago. She has three children of her own and one adopted child (her sister’s son, after her sister died of Aids).
Jackie had four siblings. In a microcosm of the problems facing the black community in the townships, all have died – either in car accidents or of Aids-related illness. This is a problem which looms large in the day-to-day life of Xolani School, as hardly a day passes without one or more staff being absent to attend a family funeral – putting additional strain on already over-stretched staff.
How fundraising can support Xolani School
- Our children take for granted everyday classroom equipment, such as pencils, pens and rubbers. Children at Xolani have to provide their own stationery which means they often share a tiny sliver of rubber or wait for another child to finish with a pencil before starting their own work.
- At Xolani everyday maths equipment, such as counters, rulers and protractors have to be provided by children’s families. Children bring in old metal beer tops to use as counters. If you only have 12 beer tops (or worse still, you haven’t any and have to wait for another child to lend you theirs), there’s a limit to what you can do!
- Children at Xolani (and at all schools in South Africa, it seems) are passionate about sport. We saw some fantastic girl football players (there is no sexism at Xolani!) in PE lessons. The school has a limited amount of shorts, tops, footballs, other balls, bats etc. Much of which has been provided by DKH in the past but these valued items don’t last forever and get much, much use.
- Children at Xolani are brilliant at reading and writing English and love books and stories very much (as our children do). Books at Xolani are very well-thumbed and used. Children and staff value any new books very much indeed.
What always struck us on our visits was how bright, motivated, imaginative, responsive and positive most Xolani children were. They (and the staff) love Science, Environmental Education, Music, Dance, Drama, ICT and Art just as DKH children do (as well as many other curriculum areas too!). A donation of £250 can go a long way towards helping Xolani School afford the sort of everyday resources described above.
Dog Kennel Hill School