Twinning is a winning concept

2010-02-05 00:00

I WAS reading through your article titled “It Takes a Village” and wanted to share a little more of what the village does.

Since 2004, St Anne’s College has had a formal social responsibility department called Stepp (St Anne’s Education in Partnership Programme). One aspect of Stepp has been twinning. We twin with Umthoqotho High School in the Nxamalala region of Sweetwaters and we have been in a great relationship with each other for over six years. That twinning programme has resulted in:

• computer teacher training;

• maths literacy teacher training;

• core maths teacher training;

• government partnerships in teacher training;

• physical development for partner schools in relationship with government;

• Grade 12 science practical sessions at St Anne’s College and;

• further twinning with schools from New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom, who support the twinning programme by visiting, working in the partner school, donating funds and establishing mutually beneficial relationships.

In May of last year, Dr Ina Cronjé [the then MEC for Education] visited Umthoqotho High School and commended them on their fantastic development and improved results, a testimony to their hard work, committed relationship to development and openness to twinning and partnering with suburban schools.

As a result of this tremendous partnership, Stepp has been able to establish further partnerships that were successfully piloted at Umthoqotho High School.

Those partnerships are:

• government maths literacy and core maths teacher training to more schools in Sweetwaters and Pietermaritzburg’s surrounding areas;

• Grade 12 science practical sessions with schools that do not have fully functioning or equipped laboratories;

• Smile Literacy with Nogqaza School in Howick [a six-year partnership];

• SPCA Howick and Pietermaritzburg;

• twinning with Mountain Home School;

• partnering with Umgeni Hospital;

• the establishment of a school library programme for Nogqaza School; and

• six partnerships that are established, administrated and run by Grade 11 St Anne’s pupils on a weekly basis throughout the school year. These partnerships are with:

• Boake’s Home;

• Little Lambs Pre-school [Tumbleweed];

• Masibumbane Mission [Mpophomeni];

• Zamothule School [Mpophomeni];

• Sunfield Home/Grey’s Hospital; and

• Nonkululeko Crèche.

These partnerships involve all the St Anne’s girls on a voluntary basis, over a full year on a weekly basis. The girls teach literacy, play educational games, focus on pre-school skills, fundraise for partner needs and much more.

My thanks must go to the maths government supervisors for their good administration of our combined efforts and to donors from the corporate world for their generosity, Ken Collins Trust in particular in Pietermaritzburg and their commitment to sustainable development in education. And it goes without saying that recognition must be given to our partner schools who continue to give so much of themselves to education and their schools over and above their full-time work.

While I was reading Colin McKay’s article, many things came to mind. One was that on his list of libraries, computers, toilets, electricity, maths and sciences, we have found that “access” is an incredibly powerful tool in development.

As resourced schools, we often have access to less tangible avenues. An example would be that we can hold authorities accountable for their actions and expect development, based on fairness, structure and time-efficient programmes, while the rural schools do not always retain that tool.

Secondly, schools that are resourced and have a heart for twinning and community partnership, should be trusted by business as experts in the field of education. Resourced schools that are serious about educational partnerships are an excellent conduit for community educational partnerships and should not be approached with caution.

Donors should entrust the business of education to such schools, learn from them, include them in their needs analysis for donor funding and lessen the benefactor attitude in favour of extending their own learning.

The benefit of business being involved in educational development is not just about increasing their “own pool of human resources, to earn BEE points and to gain marketing”. These aspects are true, essential and worthy, but they must not detract from the intangible benefits of community partnering. Examples would be customer loyalty, accountability to themselves, government, partners and customers, a raised level of compassion and an awareness of the reality in which we exist.

This, in turn, changes how we run businesses, deal with clients, respond to our environment and prioritise what is important.

• Louise Taylor is director: social responsibility at St Anne’s College, Hilton.

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