I have a dream
In February 2017 a group of seven volunteers from All Saints Church Fulham [(went to Amasango Career School in Grahamstown to volunteer as classroom assistants for two weeks.
Amasango Career School
Amasango is a school for children with special needs, typically they will have dropped out of school for a period and have little or no parental or family involvement or guidance in their lives. With help from a charity in the UK the children receive three meals a day, a food parcel for weekends, uniform, clothing and the care of a dedicated student support assistant who ensures health and social needs are met. The school is always keen to welcome volunteers who are especially useful when it comes to learning and practising English.
The school fills in the gaps in a learners’ education as quickly as it can so they can progress to high school. It’s quite good at this and very roughly half of the pupils achieve this. Those that don’t have learnt to read and write and to speak English.
Noticing the obvious
Our volunteer group comprised clergy, two youth workers, a school nurse, two teachers and a builder. For the most part the group members found a role, but Ade – the builder – struggled. While he was trying to make himself useful he noticed something rather obvious: that whereas half the school population (give or take) were going on to high school, half weren’t and this worried him.
Of course, this isn’t a criticism, merely an observation. The school’s resources are spread very thin, and, miraculously, the principal has found room in the budget, as well as room in a crowded school site, to start a skills workshop. There’s a pottery at the school as well, but learners have an hour at best there in a week. In neither case is there enough time to develop a skill competently.
Ade had a dream
As Ade gazed through the wire fencing of the school he dreamed of building workshops on the empty land next to the school, bringing a team from the UK to work on the construction alongside the older pupils from the school so they could learn skills in a hands-on way. Then running workshops for the learners at Amasango and for others in the afternoons once school is finished for the day.
It’s a great vision, and it is not going to turn out exactly as dreamed, but it’s a good starting point, and we shall see as time goes on how much of it we can realise together.
Christina Thomas is a trustee of Khanya and serial volunteer at Amasango Career School.