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A Marist School caring for the children of refugees

 

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Sacred Heart College, Observatory, Johannesburg - The Three2Six School

29/08/2008: South Africa

Currently there are thousands of unschooled refugee children in Johannesburg with the official asylum seeker permits who have been refused access to state schools. Legally these children are entitled to an education in South Africa. However, the schooling situation in South Africa is not yet ideal, and equal opportunities are, unfortunately, not afforded to all refugee children, especially those who have limited financial resources and who are trying to attend under- resourced state schools. Many of these children are refused access to state schools due to insufficient resources at state schools, inability to pay fees, and language difficulties.

In an effort and in response to a request from Bishop Paul Verryn of the Central Methodist Church to help at least some of these refugee children, especially those in the neighbouring communities of Yeoville, Berea and Hillbrow, Sacred Heart College (SHC), an independent Catholic school in Observatory (Johannesburg), formed a voluntary steering committee comprising representatives from the Refugee Ministries, the Coordinating Body of Refugee Communities (CBRC), Sacred Heart College and other outside volunteers with time and the expertise to help in bringing about interim schooling for the unschooled refugee learners. It was decided to start an afternoon school, based at Sacred Heart College for primary school children from the neighbouring refugee communities in Yeoville, Berea and Hillbrow. The children will attend the school until they have gained access to state schooling. It is thus an interim measure to address the problem of these children not having access to schooling.

The aims and objectives
- Interim primary school education (Grades R-5, ages 5-12) for 150 refugee children who have been refused access to state schools.
- Employment for refugee teachers.
- Mentorship, training and education of the refugee teachers.
- Immunisation for the children and their siblings (this will be done at SHC by qualified healthcare professionals).
- Skills training and support for parents.
- Advocacy with the local Department of Education to accept children once they are school ready.
- One meal is provided per day for the children
- Uniforms are provided for the children.
- The school aims to provide transport (dependent on fundraising).

The model
A platooning model of schooling (also used at Marist Catholic schools in Brazil) has been adapted, which allows the refugee children to use the mostly underutilised classrooms and other school resources in the afternoons, from 15h00 to 18h00 when the normal school day has ended. The school became operational during the first quarter of 2008.

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