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The Amajingqi Team have been getting their feet muddy stepping into new waters in the Willowvale region as our Public School Partnerships project kicks off this term. Catching up briefly with project manager Nangamso Koza for an update on their work thus far, one is left feeling hopeful. Despite some potholes along the road her team is walking, their path seems set towards positive long-term progress in the partner schools.

Aims at Amajingqi

The first term has been all about foundations. A primary aim was to ensure all stakeholders understand what the project is about and what it hopes to achieve. This has meant drawing in school management teams, school governing bodies (SGBs), and learners. “We wanted everybody to be able to identify how they can play an active part,” Nangamso explained.

Second priority was strengthening structures, ensuring that the schools have the correct committees and properly established systems for responsibilities like financial management and procurement. Included in this work was ensuring that SGBs, an essential structure for robust school functioning, were ready to handover to the incoming groups.

Students to lead

Connected to all of these systems, is the development of strong student leadership structures. Nangamso explained that the South African Schools Act can mandate the formation of student governance structures from Grade 8 to Matric. Electing student representatives brings learners into the process of managing their own schools, assisting teachers and principals by taking leadership in various portfolios from Infrastructure and Transport to Environment and Health.

So far, the team has managed to initiate such a structure in one of the high schools, hoping this will offer an example for scaling through the rest of the project. A strong pilot at one school also develops a pool of more experienced student leaders who can mentor younger learners in future.

Nangamso said that although it is early days, students are already stepping into their leadership positions, taking greater charge of things like discipline and attendance within their own peer groups. “You have to start there,” she said. “Let them listen to each other, not just the elders.”

Challenges in Change

Of course, it hasn’t all been easy. Nangamso reflected that the biggest challenge has been building and managing relationships, figuring out how to hold people accountable. Key to this is mastering the most effective communication with different schools and principals, and this challenging particularly as a young, unmarried woman without children leading a project in quite a conservative area. This requires a lot of thinking on one’s feet and sometimes picking one’s battles for the sake of the bigger picture. Their aim is to continue building relationships that are respectful, accountable and humanising.

Highlights going into Term 2

For Nangamso, the dedication, motivation and experience brought to Amajingqi by the team has been a highlight. She says it has been inspiring to work with people who rise at 5am and will travel up to 2 hours to engage with schools, putting in continuous time and enthusiasm. “I serve with people who carry this project with dignity, and they are smiling,” Nangamso said.

Introducing the Nobalisa reading for learning and fun programme has also been a highlight, as has seeing a Community of Practice (COP) beginning to take shape as a space where teachers are becoming comfortable sharing challenges and successes.

“I am highly excited about this project,” the team lead concluded. “If I look at where the schools were when we arrived in January and where they were when we left [for holidays] now in March, I think this project is going to play a huge role in this area.”

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