Thursday, June 08, 2006

A Waldorf School in the Rainbow Nation

Coming back in the car from school yesterday my five-year-old came up with a solution for the world crime problem

“If people give the robbers some food, then they won’t need to steal and then they wouldn’t have to go to jail.”

It’s quite simple when you look at it like that!

Poverty is much more in your face here than in Europe, which is why this simple solution seems so logical to her. Every day going to school we pass an “informal settlement”, Witsands, where most of the houses are shacks, cobbled together from corrugated iron, planks and plastic sheets to keep the rain out and a lot of the children at my children’s schools live there. If their parents are both working they have enough food and clothes and maybe even the luxury of a chest freezer run on a gas bottle, but still no electricity or running water and the toilet is a pit one, shared between twenty families. Our children have been to a couple of birthday parties here at their school friends’ houses and there is a huge cultural and economic gap that they can’t help noticing. They know that the people in Witsands are poor but it’s very hard to explain to them why this is.

I just hope that by going to school with such a representative mix of children from our ‘rainbow nation’ (50% black Xhosa-speaking mostly from Witsands; 30% coloured Afrikaans-speaking from Atlantis the nearby town, who are mostly from more middle class families and 20% white English and Afrikaans-speaking from the surrounding farms), that my children will gain in knowledge and tolerance of the differences that make up South Africa. I hope that they will gain in understanding, without feeling that they are in any way superior because of material possessions or the academic head start they have by having English as their mother tongue, when a lot of their class mates have had to acquire it at school.

I think that is going to be a hard one to tackle, there seems to be a natural arrogance to kids who are quick at something, thinking everyone else is stupid for taking longer – my son from the lofty height of an eight year old who has learned to read and write, dismisses his sisters’ kindergarten experiences as ‘just playing and having fun...WE have to work hard at school’. Their drawings of course are vastly inferior to his, ‘cos they don’t look like real things’...we have a way to go on the tolerance and understanding...sigh!

One thing I do know is that they are all getting a great start to their education. The Waldorf philosophy is ideal for our multi cultural, multi lingual society, as in the early years it is very creative and pictorial, with lots learnt through the telling of stories, singing and rhythm. It is also suiting my son down to the ground – he is bright with a penchant for numbers, which is encouraged, but his coordination, creativity and imagination are also being developed. It is one of the main Waldorf tenets to educate the whole child - head, heart and hands. We have two great Waldorf teachers from Canada here for this year and hope and pray that they will stay for longer.

In the meantime we just have to do all we can to keep our schools going, as the policy that welcomes all children to the school, means that a lot of fundraising is needed, as over half the children pay only a minimum fee, there is no state support as it is run as a private Waldorf school.

I need to get on with learning CorelDraw so that I can produce a new leaflet for the kindergarten, my husband is brilliant at it but very busy with work, so I feel bad getting him to sit back down at a computer as soon as he gets home in the evenings. Too many things to do and I meant to write this post about an owl we encountered, he’ll have to wait until tomorrow.!

P.S. I should just add that my children have had no personal experience of robbers, but seem to spend an inordinate amount of time playing cops and robbers, hence the fascination with going to jail!

P.P.S. If you are interested you can see the school on their website

1 comment:

  1. beautifully written, such elegance in the plain truth. Your words encourage openess and and making a difference...thank you for writing with open eyes and showing the roots of poverty.


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