Learning in a troubled community
LEAP 4 – Diepsloot was LEAP’s first school based within a high-need community. In a converted warehouse in the heart of the now-notorious informal settlement just outside of Johannesburg, the school faces a distinct set of challenges for teachers and students.
In the news for all the wrong reasons – xenophic violence, service delivery protests, brutal crimes against children and mob justice – Diepsloot provides a backdrop of dire need right next door to the luxury of the exclusive Dainfern Estate. LEAP students must navigate this challenging environment and move ahead in life, supported and encouraged by a very special group of teachers and LEAP 4’s founding funder, the Aveng Group.
LEAP 4’s leader, Paul Mumba, joined LEAP as a volunteer tutoring Maths in Langa in 2006 and is all-too aware of the complexities in a community like Diepsloot:
Everyone has a perception that nothing good can come out of Diepsloot but the everyday smiles on the faces of the 186 LEAP 4 learners, despite the terrible conditions which they are living in, makes me proud.
“The social issues of the community negatively affect academic performance – most learners lack a space to study or complete homework. We have also experienced cases of rape, domestic violence and family members living with HIV which also impacts on our learners’ academic performance.”
“My biggest challenge as a leader is to get my staff, parents and learners to understand the reason why LEAP operates differently from other organisations. We put the learners at the centre of everything that we do.”
Life Orientation lessons are a central part of LEAP’s whole-child approach to education, but they are even more important in a community like Diepsloot: “These lessons are indispensable to our learners as they offer psychosocial support.”
Nonkuleleko Mnguni, head of Life Orientation at LEAP 4, explains: “Most LEAP 4 learners do not feel safe in their own community, they fear for their families. Violence is one of the topics that seems to be popular, to a point that some of our learners have normalised it. Although they voice their opinions through community forums, they feel like they are not heard and feel helpless.”
Learners start to take small risks by speaking or sharing in class. Then they learn to trust the space and feel that it is a safe place for them to be vulnerable. This is the moment when they find their voices and take ownership, they see themselves as part of the LEAP family.”
“Life Orientation gives them a safe space to share what they are feeling and help each other move forward. It gives them the chance to see that, as much as they feel angry about what is happening, their peers have similar feelings as well. It helps them identify what they are feeling and how they can channel those feelings.”
BEING THE CHANGE
“They have to realise that if they want change in their community, they have to be the change and not wait for someone to bring about change in their own lives.”
They also need to see that they are not their community, so being part of Diepsloot does not make them the same as all who live in it. They need to stop normalising the problems in their community.”