THE kingdom of Netherlands has recommitted itself to continue its partnership with schools in KwaZulu-Natal in a programme that assists schools to address social problems viewed as barriers to effective teaching and learning.
The Netherlands and the Media in Education Trust are the main partners in the pilot project that seeks to establish schools as inclusive centres of learning, care and support.
Schools in the Durban South Coast in the Ugu district have already benefited from the programme. They have amazing stories to tell about how it has changed their schools to happier places of teaching and learning, and how the programme has transformed their lives at home.
Netherlands deputy ambassador Peter Mollema said they were impressed by the commitment shown by teachers, schools and their partners in the country.
"The programme has really made a difference, and we are glad that the support that we have injected has managed to put back the smile on the people who needed it.
"Often children who experience problems such as abuse, orphanage and poverty at home are unable to perform in a classroom situation, and these social problems have a huge impact on teaching and learning," he said.
Ruth Malinga, a MiET Africa counsellor for the pilot project in the Mbeleni cluster schools, supports teachers and caregivers by referring cases of children experiencing health problems to the appropriate health services so that sick learners can be assisted.
A Grade 10 learner at Mbusi High School had her schooling interrupted by many hospitalisations since she contracted polio in her early years. Malinga said the child was usually sad and wept often about her frustrations in keeping up with her studies.
"In conjunction with a learner support educator in the cluster, we arranged for Nontobeko to visit the clinic to have her measurements taken for the fitting of adapted shoes to correct her walking difficulties.
"Even after Nontobeko had received her shoes, she still carried them around in a plastic bag, still feeling uncomfortable with them."
However, after counselling she found the courage to wear the shoes and learned to walk with them on.
Provincial Education MEC Senzo Mchunu says there is no way that schools can ignore such problems and that it is impossible that teachers and schools can only commit to their core function of teaching and learning. "Without programmes such as this one that addresses these problems, it would be extremely difficult," Mchunu said.