Women shape girls' future via unique school

Co-founder and board member of Molo Mhlaba Athambile Masola.
Co-founder and board member of Molo Mhlaba Athambile Masola.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

The future of the South African education landscape is undergoing a radical change and the new buzz word is "disrupting education", simply meaning alternative education.

And a plethora of independent schools is on the rise, giving parents an alternative to the ailing public school system and the excessively costly private schools.

In Cape Town's Khayelitsha township, the Molo Mhlaba schools project was started as an after-school programme for girls by the Thope Foundation in 2015. It was initially aimed at primary school girls in grades six and seven.

Other alternative private schools

The Rera Language School was founded last year by Matsobane Sexwale to encourage multilingualism and literacy in African languages.

Sexwale says it is important to use a communicative approach to teach, incorporating storytelling, music, games and craft for fun and to broaden cultural reference.

"This supports our students' learning and improves their proficiency in African languages," says Sexwale.

Pioneer Education Group is a Pan-African independent school network offering pre-school to secondary education for students aged three to 18.
They pride themselves of preparing the next generation of leaders and innovators through world-class teaching methods with emphasis on 21st century skills.
Since its inception in 1989, Sparrow Schools has remained committed to its mission
to provide quality, holistic education to learners
with cognitive disabilities and to youth from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Founder Jackie Gallagher worked relentlessly to grow the school so that by the end of 1992, it was home to more than 20 teachers and 550 learners.

"We realised that if we were going to make a sustained and meaningful impact, we needed the girls for more than the two years we had them in the programme," said Molo Mhlaba board member Athambile Masola.

"Our pupils all come from poor homes, some from the informal settlements nearby. We chose Khayelitsha because we were already working in the area. We started our after-school programme at Chumisa primary."

Masola is of the opinion that starting an all-girl, low-fee private school made sense as it allowed them a long-term relationship with the girls and lay the kind of foundation they needed for the girls to succeed later in life.

The brainchild behind Molo Mhlaba is board member Rethabile Sonibarem. She's also a founder member of Thope, an organisation that motivated and spurred on its members to dream about the school.

The board was also deeply involved in the process of devising the curriculum for Molo Mhlaba, whose foundation phase pupils last year became the first grade one intake this year.

The curriculum is derived from the
iSteam model. iSteam is an acronym for innovation, science, technology, engineering, the arts and maths.

"The curriculum is also underpinned by a Pan-African worldview, which draws on knowledge from across the continent," said Masola.

"We believe that by using Africa as a starting point we will better prepare our children for the future. We are also drawing on the Montesorri method of teaching as a way to help us think about the development of the child."

Masola said the Molo Mhlaba school is run by black women. The board, which is exclusively female, makes decisions about the school. Members are drawn from different networks with a variety of expertise in education, law, fundraising and social development.

The school is mainly funded through donations by individuals as well as the Thope Foundation, which holds regular fundraising events.

"We are independent in that we rely on private funding in order to have as much autonomy over our curriculum as possible," said Masola, noting that fees for 2019 had risen to R5,000 a year from R4,000.

"We benchmarked this amount according to what creches charge in the area."

Further good news is that Molo Mhlaba is starting a high school this year.

"We are transforming SA, one girl at a time," she explained.

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