The Greatness Initiative for Township Educational Development (GIFTED) is an education initiative designed to empower young people through education. OHS created the inaugural GIFTED ‘community’ in the Cape Town township of Imizamo Yethu in 2012, and since then it has been maintained and grown larger every year under the auspices of the OHS Collective.
South Africa is considered one of the most ‘developed’ countries in all of Africa, but for centuries its people were ‘robbed of their birthright to land, liberty and peace by a form of government founded on injustice and inequality’ [source: Freedom Charter]. Though the legal institution of apartheid ended in 1994, the effects of a racially discriminatory political system remain, particularly in the education sector.
Government schools that serve underprivileged communities are predominantly attended by students of color whose parents were denied access to higher education under the apartheid system. These schools often suffer from a lack of resources, insufficient teacher training, and high student-to-teacher ratios, all of which contribute to poor academic performance:
34.1 – Percent of Grade 4 students in the Western Cape province who passed the Mathematics regional exam (WCED Systemic) in 2013
16.8 – Percent of Grade 4 students who passed Mathematics at the school with whom we partner [Oranjekloof Moravian Primary School]
29.5 – Percent of Grade 6 students in the Western Cape province who passed the Language regional exam (WCED Systemic) in 2013
13.1 – Percent of Grade 6 students who passed Language at the school with whom we partner
Such results reflect a bleak prospect for future academic and life opportunity for these children, thus perpetuating the cycle of inequality which was the source of their poor academic destiny in the first place. The GIFTED community was created as a positive and hope-based reaction to this catastrophic reality.
The goals of the GIFTED Community are to:
Each year, approximately 20 Grade 3 students are enrolled in the GIFTED Community. These students are selected in collaboration with teachers and are often those who rank in the middle-bottom range of their class in reading and mathematics, though exceptions are made. These students receive tutoring for 90 minutes 4 days a week from OHS volunteers at a 1:1 student-to-teacher ratio. This allows us to tailor instruction to the specific needs of each student, creating a condition in which rapid academic growth is possible. Student progress is carefully tracked with periodic assessments and a report is issued to the child’s parent/guardian and teacher mid-way through the program as well as at the end of the program-year.
The core academic goal of the GIFTED Community is to generate measurable improvement in reading and mathematics for all enrolled students. However, if education is to be understood as a catalyst of social and cultural innovation, it must be holistic – we must choose to emphasize also the Arts, critical thought, and the building of character.
Accordingly, GIFTED community students are also offered after-school programs twice a week as well as Saturday school every weekend. These days incorporate a variety of arts, sports and extracurricular activities to encourage students to engage creatively and to provide a safe, constructive use of time during after-school hours. In 2015 we hope to offer opportunities for students to engage in activities including but not limited to: debate, music, dance, yoga, philosophy, conflict resolution, and art. Once a month we take the kids go on field trips and other excursions in the local area with the mentors of the GIFTED community.
Our goal is for the GIFTED community to operate at the intersection of formal, content-based learning and experimental, process-based learning. We want to incentivize good grades whilst also incentivizing the pursuit of wonder and understanding of the universe.
Once enrolled in OHS in Grade 3, a group of GIFTED students stays together til the end of primary school. 2015 will mark the fourth consecutive year of the GIFTED community, and will see the enrollment of twenty new Grade 3 students, increasing the total number of enrollees to approximately 80 students between Grades 3-6.
We believe educational transformation to be the first step of a social transformation towards a child-first society where equal access to education is the norm.
“Let your children name themselves
And claim themselves
As the new day, for today
We are determined to be the channelers of these changing frequencies
into songs, paintings, writings, dance, drama
Photography, carpentry, crafts, love, and love,
we enlist every instrument…”