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Onse Skool is an Early Childhood Development Centre for children from Paardeberg farms near Malmesbury. It opened its door in February 2014.  We take in children from ages 6 months to 6 years and follow active stimulation programmes: children age 6 months to 1 year follow the Oakhill Learn2Live programme learn2live.co.za . Ages 1 to 5 follow the Kinderland programme kinderlandwellington.co.za . The four building blocks of this centre are Excellence, Collaboration, Joy and Integrity.

 

 

The school can accommodate 50 – 60 children and we have 11 staff members including a day mother for babies, educators, assistants and a cook.  All the staff members are from the farming community.

Community involvement is of utmost importance.  The school is housed in a renovated cellar building made available by Lammershoek Winery. Transport to and from the preschool is organised by landowners and parents from different farms.  All parents pay a basic school fee and are expected to attend parent meetings and to ensure that their children attend school regularly to get the full benefit from the programme. Private sponsors and the Department of Education fund expenses not covered by school fees, and our school facilitators organise a few annual fundraisers in the community.  This is a community project: Onse Skool translates to Our School.

 

The main focus of the Trust is community development through education and therefore training and empowerment of the facilitators and adult staff members are as important a part of every initiative as the education of children.   There is a high rate of unemployment in the community and there is little sense in educating the younger ones if there are no jobs for them when they become adults.  More trained adults create new activities and new job opportunities, therefore the Trust endeavours to employ local people where possible and train them, rather than employing trained people from other communities.

Compared to the prescribed educator-child ratio, the Onse Skool ECD has more facilitators than necessary, because the school functions as a training centre for educators as well.  Facilitators upskill at the local college in Malmesbury or by doing the B.Ed (Foundational Phase) through UNISA.  The programme manager is responsible for daily practical training and monitoring of all the educators and therefore all the staff members are in a continuous process of training.

The development of more general skills are also addressed.  All facilitators are actively encouraged to obtain driver’s licenses,  since this allows a person to enlarge his/her own world and it will most probably help to solve the constant problems with transport issues in time.  Life skill training, such as discussion courses about leadership, conflict management and relevant social topics are done throughout the year in specific time slots.  The responsibility for specific tasks in the school is handed over to facilitators in a continuous process and they are encouraged to plan and execute different projects; and train and guide and mentor younger colleagues.

This process is time-consuming and projects develop more slowly as they would have if they could have started with a fully-trained staff from Day One onwards.  We need dedicated people who are committed to this specific community though – and this is the only way in which we can work towards that goal.  This method also prevents us from outgrowing our own capacity which may, in the process, lead to mediocrity.