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School Engagement Project

1. Why this Project?

Using a values-based approach, learners at school and university are offered the opportunity to become leaders and change makers, which in turn meets a crucial need in South Africa today.

“We cannot talk about sustainable development without the active involvement of youth. When we give young people real influence in our world, they will create a better future.”

- United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

The International Centre of Nonviolence (ICON) at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) promotes social justice and nonviolence. One way in which we can make our vision a reality is to develop relationships between schools and the resources that a university such as DUT can offer. This can allow a range of positive developments that would challenge the negativity around South African education, demonstrating the ability of schools to prepare learners for purpose-driven livelihoods.

Thus in July 2018, we launched the School Engagement Project, currently implemented at four local DUT feeder schools: Wiggins Secondary School, Futura High, Hunt Road Secondary School and Sastri College. Our vision is to expand the project from 2019 and invite further schools to partner with us in enhancing school education while providing practical and integrated learning opportunities for students.

2. Key Pillars of the Project

The key pillars of the project support one another in enhancing culture and capacity for the participating schools to become sites of genuine inclusion and educational excellence.

In each of the key project pillars, DUT students develop leadership and change making skills as they facilitate development in collaboration with school stakeholders. As a result, learners from these schools stand a better chance of qualifying for their chosen field of study, as well as bursaries. They are also more likely to complete their degrees successfully, thus becoming role models to other school learners and contributing to the South African economy.

2.1 School Management

With the help of a retired school principal, the School Management Teams of our four participating schools will be supported in their development to manage schools for quality teaching and learning.

2.2 Gateway Subjects

Teachers in our participating schools will be offered mentoring by retired teachers to develop expertise in the teaching of Maths, Science, accounting and English.

Grade 10, 11 and 12 learners in these subjects will be offered afternoon revision classes by DUT students.

2.3 Peace Clubs

DUT students and lecturers will facilitate the development of Peace Clubs in our participating schools to fulfil the following functions:

-The growth of conflict resolution skills to harness diversity and reduce school violence so that learning can take place in a safe and supportive environment

-The establishment of peer mediators who can be called on to mediate conflict situations

2.4 Social Entrepreneurship Competition

Mentored by DUT students, teams of Grade 10 learners in participating schools implement workable solutions to problems facing their school communities, leaving a legacy in the process.

In this way learners are prepared for tertiary education and the world of work by developing entrepreneurial competencies.

School Engagement Project video

3. Project Outcomes


3.1 Develop a culture of Ubuntu, collaboration and social entrepreneurship in schools

3.2 Improve school academic results, particularly in the gateway subjects

3.3 Develop leadership and change making skills in school pupils and DUT students

3.4 Offer opportunities for Masters and PhD students at DUT to develop their skills through work placement while strengthening the capacities of the schools

3.5 Foster a strong relationship between the schools and DUT that attracts school students to DUT and generates further opportunities for collaboration and research

4. Values and Assumptions

4.1 Communities and the schools that serve them have significant social assets that are often not recognized or drawn upon.

4.2 Schools have often inherited organisational cultures built on hierarchy, low expectations of staff and students and mistrust; these are not surprising given the history of colonialism and apartheid.

4.3 High expectations and a positive sense of self are powerful contradictions to this negativity. Thus the way things are done is crucial – from the start, processes need to build these qualities.

4.4 Imagination and innovation flourish in cultures of nonviolence, as managers, teachers and learners realise that they are not bound by the imposed practices of the past.

Thus this project supports schools in using the following strategies (adapted from How to Fix South Africa’s Schools by Jonathan Jansen and Molly Black) to create an environment where limiting beliefs are challenged and education can flourish:

• Establish success rituals and routines

• Ensure that relevant learning takes place inside and outside the classroom

• Confront learners with high expectations

• Provide learners with love and discipline

• Involve parents in the life of the school

• Ensure that School Management Teams are visible in their leadership

• Develop practices of social entrepreneurship

• Create value-adding partnerships

• Expose learners to experiences beyond the school

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