Class of 2008 can ‘touch the future’

2008-01-15 00:00

Given that the class of 2007 has just cleared its matric hurdle and that the class of 2008 is about to embark on its final school year, the idea of the class of 2020 seems somewhat remote.

However, a number of people have recently referred to it, and ideas around plans for its success seem to be uniting, so it is worth a second look.

National Minister of Education, Naledi Pandor, in speaking of the recent matric results, cast her thoughts forward to the foundations that need to be laid this year for learners who go into grade R who will be writing their final Grade 12 exams in 2020.

In Friday’s Witness CEO of the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business, Andrew Layman, spoke of the need for educators to be focusing on the first level of schooling, and the Provincial Early Childhood Development Committee (ECO) has described the Class of 2008 as their chance to “touch the future”.

Why the sudden connection between these dates? Clearly leaders are concerned by much disturbing evidence, and want to find ways of reducing it. The same ECD provincial committee had this to say:

“A significant amount of research points to the fact that the earliest years of a child’s life are the most impressionable.

Secondly, it has been recorded that learners who pass through quality Grade R programmes form stronger foundations for future learning than those who are not exposed to reception class learning.

Consequently, Grade R learners from quality institutions are less likely to repeat grades or drop out of school.

Further, these learners are more likely to go to college or university, earn higher salaries, are more socially adjusted and are less likely to engage in criminal activity.

“Currently, schools are experiencing problems with substance abuse, violence and increasing suicidal behaviour. Further, the levels of academic achievement of our school leavers are also of concern.

“We are under no illusions and understand that this is a massive undertaking. In keeping with the expectation of a ‘better life for all’ however, this programme must get off the ground.

“With the support of our political leadership, top and senior management, NGOs and other interested role players, we are certain to make a difference.”

Coincidentally, the Brookby Centre has been considering ways in which it could contribute to educational upliftment and has contacted Professor Martin Prozesky whose book Conscience-Ethical Intelligence for Global well-being was published last year.

“How is it possible to put conscience to work?” we asked him and so we developed a series of seminars to look at this concept. Obviously the place to start is the early education level and so we are poised to co-operate with Varsity College, Compass Ethics and the Psychomotor Education Institute of South Africa (PEISA) in holding a seminar on March 8.

It is entitled “Conscience-building Foundations in Early Childhood Development”, and will be aimed at parents, grandparents, child-minders and all educators at that level.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu in recommending Prozesky’s book said, “It is a book whose time has come as it maps out a potentially global ethic, providing practical resources of heart, mind and hands with which we can become citizens of conscience.”

PEISA, the organisation responsible for the psychomotor training programme in preschools, has for some years seen its work as consistent with the aims of the Unesco international Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence and say: “Developing comprehension, tolerance and solidarity is to be found in the early childhood education. A respectful communication with the child promotes self-esteem and mutual understanding.”

The Psychomotor Education Programme is based on all the above goals and is proposed as a part of the curriculum in pre-primary schools in many countries (mainly in Europe) as well as in South Africa. It accompanies the child in the journey towards his or her whole development: emotional, physical and social. The Psychomotor Education Programme allows the child to play freely but in respect of the rule: ‘we don’t hurt anybody, we don’t hurt ourselves”. This is the first step towards non-violent behaviour.’

Everyone we have approached to participate has responded with enthusiasm. Hopefully, the remaining ingredient of funding will come from interested persons and businesses.

• Anyone wishing to contribute, or who wants more information, contact Lawrance at brookby@futurenet.co.za, or call 033 344 3094.

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