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‘Third tier’ of education shows encouraging results

When the Mail & Guardian arrived at LEAP 4 in Diepsloot, we were led past brightly painted walls to meet our guides in the busy staff room, grade 10 pupils Ilana Ngwenya and Vusi Mkhandawirne. “Are you the head girl?” we asked Ilana. “No. We are all leaders here,” she said. “Shall we begin our tour?”

The Diepsloot school is one of six LEAP schools across the country. It charges parents a total of R500 a year to cover uniform costs and a community service programme. “The fees of about R35 000 per child are covered in full by infrastructure development group Aveng, which initiated this school with us,” said principal Ross Hill. The school, which opened last year, has 95 pupils and is the only one in the group that relies on a sole funder.

The school strives to instil a culture of leadership and respect in its pupils. “We work in a socioemotional space before an academic space,” said teacher James Malope.

“In this school, you get the chance to fulfil your dreams,” said Ilana.

The school emphasises maths, science and English learning.

“Our maths results are about six times better than a township school,” said Hill. “Most of our pupils that have gone on to tertiary education are still there – they have not dropped out.”

Relying on private and corporate sponsorship, LEAP “pays better than public schools”, said Malope.

Hill believes teachers’ salaries are similar to government salaries. However, the teaching staff is often filled by the LEAP Future Leaders Programme, which encourages former students to study to become teachers and allows them on-the-job training. The programme is one of the ways LEAP encourages students to “give back to the community”.

Hill admitted that the schools’ reliance on funding meant the model was not sustainable. However, “we are working with the government and other high-performing schools to create a third tier of schooling.

“You are essentially given the money that the government would spend on the child if the child remained in government care, and run the school with the education department’s criteria and curriculum and final exams, but you have the autonomy to select your own staff.” The proviso for this arrangement would be for the school to “keep excellent results”.

“Essentially, we are looking at a private and public collaboration,” he said.

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