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Designing a new vision for South Africa’s schools

Monday, 23 November 2015   (0 Comments)
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Painting pots, playing alphabet games, balancing balloons, dancing mathematics, singing sentences. The Africa A+ Schools network took its first steps by introducing its first cohort of facilitators to these and other creative, collaborative and fun ways of teaching and learning during a Fellow’s Retreat at the Cape Craft and Design Institute (CCDI) in October.

The new facilitators, or fellows as we call them at Africa A+, are five arts practitioners from a range of disciplines, three early childhood development (ECD) specialists, and three apprentice ECD facilitators. The Retreat is a three-day professional development programme that enables the fellows to support schools in nurturing creativity, critical thinking, innovation and an entrepreneurial mindset.

The Retreat began with an introduction to the 0 – 4 years National Curriculum Framework by CCDI’s ECD project director, Anya Morris. This was followed by two intensive days in which the Africa A+ fellows were steeped in the A+ Schools methodology and philosophy by three facilitators, Rosalynn Lynch Wade, Cindy Scarberry and Jennifer Richard, from our partner organisation, the Oklahoma A+ Schools (OKA+).

Emphasis was placed throughout the weekend on collaboration – working together to understand the vision of the A+ Schools. The fellows became acquainted with the eight A+ essentials or commitments, and identified ways in which these could be applied in the South African context. These essentials include arts-based learning (A+ means we facilitate the curriculum through drama, dance, music, visual arts and movement), experiential learning (we learn best through doing), multiple learning pathways (we all learn in different ways), and collaboration (we can do so much when we work together)

The Africa A+ Schools network offers member schools professional development and ongoing on-site support that enables the schools to think, plan and facilitate so that children can develop the skills that prepare them for lifelong success. Research shows that A+ member schools achieve better academically, teachers are more motivated, learning is facilitated in collaborative and hands-on ways, and the children are excited about coming to school.

A special celebration was held on 12 October at CCDI to celebrate this exciting first step in establishing the Africa A+ network. Various stakeholders attended: the project funders – Standard Bank and the Department of Economic Development and Tourism (DEDAT), our Oklahoma partners in the A+ Schools network, school staff and stakeholders from early education, the arts and government.

At the event, Standard Bank Innovation Capability Executive (and the visionary behind the Africa A+ Schools), Paul Steenkamp said:  “We are huge fans of entrepreneurs, and we believe that entrepreneurs will help this continent realise its potential.  This project is really about recognising the need for us to start cultivating and partnering with the communities that we operate in to help create a pipeline of creative thinkers and problem-solvers who are going to turn this continent around. We also recognise that this ability to think creatively and remain curious is much more important in a world that’s changing very fast.”

Bianca Mpahlaza-Schiff from DEDAT said that the rationale behind the provincial government’s support of the project was simple – they saw the importance of nurturing a person from the time they are born and giving them different competencies. “Creativity, design and innovation should be core competencies, no matter who you are and what you decide to do.”

Because the development of entrepreneurs and innovators needs to start from an early age, the Africa A+ Schools network is beginning at the preschool level. The CCDI is now in the process of inviting preschools to apply and become members of the Africa A+ Schools network and is planning the first Schools Institute, a five-day professional development programme for member schools, in January. Three more preschools will be added each year for the next two years after which Africa A+ Schools will invite primary schools to join the network.

Getting to know the Africa A+ Schools team


Karen Stewart, an experienced creative process facilitator, owns The Ah HA Company which accesses people's creativity in order to promote their company’s growth. Karen has a Master’s degree in scientific illustration.

Veronica Nicholas is a Barkly House graduate who is currently principal of iThemba School in Vrygrond where each day calls on her problem-solving and innovation skills.

Reviva Schermbrucker is a fine arts Masters graduate. Reviva is a prolific published children’s author and illustrator who is passionate about firing children’s imagination.

Marilyn Petersen-Sanders is a Barkly House graduate who is the principal of the University of Cape Town educare; a preschool recognised by ECD organisations and colleges as a model site.

Shumi Chimombe is the Communications Officer at the CCDI. She also facilitates Biodanza which uses music and movement to help people to joyfully dance with life.

Kauther Ebrahim owns her own school and has spent many years nurturing good practice in ECD practitioners and students. Kauther is a part-time facilitator at Inclusive Education.

Sue Kaplan is a practising artist with a Master’s degree in Fine Art. Sue facilitates art processes to adults and art as therapy in marginalized communities.

Zizipho Matiwane is a trainee Africa A+ fellow who teaches Grade R at Albertina Sisulu Preschool in Philippi.

Ernestine Deane is the lead vocalist for top SA group Moodphase5ive and has performed on stages all around the world. Ernie has recently relocated to Cape Town after three years in Germany.

Anya Morris is the Africa A+ project director at CCDI. Anya has a Master’s in Education and a long history in early education. Nurturing an entrepreneurial mindset in ECD is her dream job.

Ntombizanele Dike is a trainee Africa A+ fellow who teaches the Grade R class at the Green Village preschool in Philippi.


In the picture above:

Back from left: Jenny Richard (OKA), Cynthia Sigudla, Marilyn Petersen-Sanders, Shumi Chimombe, Reviva Schermbrucker, Sue Kaplan, Rosalynn Wade (OKA+)

Middle row: Karen Stewart, Ntombizanele Dike, Veronica Nicholas, Kauther Ebrahim

Front row: Anya Morris, Zizipho Matiwane, Ernestine Deane

(Not in photo Cindy Scarberry (OKA))


To keep up to date with Africa A+ Schools join their Facebook page


View the video telling the Africa A+ story.


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