The story behind SPARK Lynedoch

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The SI’s commitment, as a non-profit trust, is to ensure that the children from within our community receive the best quality education opportunities possible, within a safe and nurturing learning environment.

This is realised through our ongoing youth care and development programmes, including the Baby Centre and Creche, the Changes Youth Programme, support for Lynedoch United Football Club,  and our youth skills and accredited training programmes aimed at developing local youth and the wider community, including the Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme, Siyanzenzela programme, the AgroEcology Academy for young farmers and the previous Umzi Wethu programmes.

When Lynedoch Primary School indicated in late 2014 that they would be a likely merger with two other schools and that the school would be leaving the premises, it presented the SI and our wider community with the need to ensure that a primary school remained at the heart of the Lynedoch valley. It also created a unique opportunity to imagine a dream school. In light of the dire education crisis in our country – whereby despite one of the highest spends on education on the continent, we have among the worst numeracy and literacy results in the world – what would be required to create a truly transformative learning environment?

Firstly, outstanding academic performance with a strong focus on numeracy and literacy skills would be critical. Secondly, creating a safe and nurturing environment which fostered a lifelong love for learning could only be realised through passionate and empowered educators. So finding the best possible teachers and investing into them, would be paramount. Further, given the fast pace of technological change, this school would need to blend leading technology and learning methods in world class facilities whilst still being affordable – and scalable as a model. Whilst we are committed to the education of our immediate community, the education crisis requires innovative solutions that can be taken to scale. We found in SPARK Schools the perfect partner – a passionate team of educators committed to transforming the education system through the highest quality of education, at below government cost to educate.

From our own experiences in transformative learning over the past 15 years, we also knew that place (being embedded in your local context) and nature based learning really matters. Beauty, as a way of knowing, extends from the spaces that we experience through to respectful interactions between learners, educators and community members. We knew that if every child that comes to the new school is treated with respect and dignity, in line with SPARK School’s strong commitment to the SPARK values, they would be a part of bringing this forward in the world as well.

We could therefore not be more thrilled that SPARK Lynedoch will be opening as an independent primary school in January 2016, currently accepting Grades R to 4 for enrolments. As the SPARK Schools have achieved in the Gauteng region where they currently operate, we are especially excited about the diversity of learners that this school is attracting from across cultural and socio-economic groups. SPARK celebrates cultural diversity and encourages their learners to form a strong sense of identity within their own culture whilst appreciating and respecting the cultures of others. This social learning can only take place in diverse classroom settings, and we feel strongly that our next generation of leaders will be better off for it.

Change is always uncertain and community processes are often fraught with mis-information and political agendas. Our transition with the current school has been no different. The facts, however, are clear:

  1. The SI staff were informed in late 2014 by Lynedoch Primary School that they would be merging with another two schools and leaving the premises. This was supported by a Cape Times article that outlined that a numbers of schools in the province would be merging and / or closing. No timelines were indicated for this move, but it raised concern from within the SI and the Lynedoch community that there would no longer be a primary school to serve the local community.
  2. Our partnership with SPARK schools was therefore initiated as a response to ensure that a local primary school would remain available to the local community. We also undertook this partnership as an opportunity to bring the highest possible quality of education to our local community, given SPARK’s commitment to academic quality underpinned by their strong values.
  3. We consulted with parents and community members throughout this process.
  4. In order to ensure that SPARK Lynedoch is accessible to the community in which the SI is embedded, we have worked with funding partners to ensure that all current Lynedoch Primary School learners were offered full bursaries to attend SPARK Lynedoch until the completion of their primary education. We have also ensured that all incoming Grade Rs receive the same offer. 125 learners have enrolled on the basis of this offer.
  5. All current Lynedoch Primary School educators will be offered suitable placement at another school subject to their competencies and curriculum requirements of the receiving institution by the WCED. No teacher will be without a job. All teachers have been welcomed to apply for jobs with the new school in an open and transparent recruitment process.

Beyond the facts, the real story here is one of transformation, and opportunity. The vision and intention is that every learner that comes through SPARK Lynedoch will graduate as a globally active citizen – with a clear sense of where they have come from and the potential to go anywhere.

From our baby centre and creche, through our partnership with SPARK Lynedoch which in time will grow hopefully into a high school, into our accredited skills training programmes and University degrees all the way through to PhD, transformative experiences in education are unfolding.