27 August 2007
A primary school in the poverty-stricken Wembezi township outside Estcourt is being turned into KwaZulu-Natal province’s first “inclusive centre of learning, care and support”, which will see school programmes extend beyond the classroom to food supply, health care and social services.
“Schools are no longer only institutions of teaching and learning,” says the KwaZulu-Natal education department, which has identified 48 schools that will benefit from the “inclusive centres of learning, care and support” programme.
The programme tackles barriers to teaching and learning such as inadequate school facilities, poverty, late enrolment, communication difficulties, children living in the streets, HIV/Aids, insufficient support of educators, poor health and other “psycho-social disturbances”.
The initiative brings together the education, health, social services and home affairs departments, as well as the SA Police, the Love Life campaign, the Media in Education Trust and local municipalities.
The programme focuses on areas with a high unemployment rate among parents, coupled with high mortality rates that have left children orphaned and in the care of their grandparents.
Some of the services to be provided at schools include the conversion of a classroom into a health and wellness centre to offer support such as HIV/Aids counselling.
The inclusive centres will also offer residents with services such as access to social grants, issuing of birth certificates and support for abused persons.
Schools chosen as inclusive centres will intensify their life skills education programmes and engage with the local community to gain their trust and encourage them to get involved.
“We cannot simply assume that both the parents of learners are alive and that they have enough food and a room with a table and chair to do their homework,” Provincial education minister Ina Cronje said at the launch of the first centre at Muntuza Primary School last week.
“Very often, these essential systems we regard as normal do not exist.”
“It becomes very difficult for the education department if children have no birth certificates or parents have no identity documents,” Cronje added. “Without these basic documents, grandmothers who need grants for themselves and the children they look after cannot access them.”