Poverty No Barrier for Christel House Matrics

governance teaching learning
Tuesday, 15 January, 2013 - 15:42

Christel House South Africa, a Cape Town-based school for disadvantaged children, leads the way with a matric pass rate more than 20 percent above the national average, thanks to its holistic approach to teaching

One Western Cape school, Christel House South Africa, is trouncing national averages with its matric results and proving that poverty does not have to be an obstacle for South Africa’s children.

The school for disadvantaged children in Ottery, whose students come from below the poverty line, turned in a near perfect pass rate of 97 percent, 21 percent above the national average - they also achieved an 84 percent pass rate for mathematics, an area that continues to struggle nationally, as the 54 percent pass rate shows.

The school will achieve a 100 percent matric pass rate overall if one of their students pass a supplementary examination in February 2012.

Ronald Fortune, Principal of Christel House, says the 2012 results vindicate the school’s philosophy that it is possible to break the cycle of poverty through properly managed education which focuses on developing children rather than just teaching them a curriculum.

“The majority of South African children to some degree grow up facing a lack of opportunity, a lack of dignity, of good health and of positive role models which all play their role in keeping young people from achieving success.

Against this backdrop, Christel House owes its continued success to its unique take on education.”

Fortune believes that not taking a student’s background into account is a mistake that too many other schools make. Christel House combats the set of problems that arise from students’ backgrounds by taking a holistic approach to education: “By realising and accommodating for the fact that social problems in students’ backgrounds are a significant feature in the hindrance of positive school results, Christel House endeavours to empower children through longitudinal work that requires tremendous commitment and long-term involvement by dedicated professionals,” he says.

Top achiever, Precious Mlonyeni, who plans to enroll at the University of the Western Cape to study her BSc, says that being raised by a single mother who works as a domestic worker to support both her and her brother, means that without Christel House it is unlikely she would have been able to obtain the level of success that she has.

“Teachers at Christel House in particular make a huge difference. For them it’s not about just doing the hours and them going home, they truly go the extra mile to help students achieve their goals – they go beyond the call of duty to ensure we have the support to achieve our potential,” Mlonyeni says.

At Christel House learners are in a safe and nurturing environment, and the school provides them everything from three meals a day to art therapy and nature walks, HIV awareness, life skills and community service initiatives (in addition to the usual curriculum).

Mlonyeni says that these and other initiatives make a substantial difference to the learning process. “Through various programmes, the school places a focus on an individual’s leadership skills, the development of a moral compass and self-esteem that without which, considering the struggles many of us have had to overcome, we would not be able to function without,” says Mlonyeni.

In addition, the school also provides one-on-one mentorship for the learners during their exam preparations. Fortune says that the matric results stand as testament to the effectiveness of this approach, and hopes Christel house and its students will serve as an example to other institutions on the benefits in approaching education by taking into account an individual’s unique situation and needs.

- Christel House educates its learners through the generous donations of individuals and corporates in South Africa. For more information you can contact Anita Prendergast on 021 704 9410 or visit www.christelhouse.org.

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