It’s been another good month for Bottomup. Here’s a quick glance at what has taken place and what we have been working on this month:
1. Working together to reduce school-dropout.
Our team is involved on a daily basis in student follow up which includes phone calls, home visits or one-on-one meetings with students/parents in order to buffer severe absenteeism, school disconnection and drop-out. We use absenteeism data as part of an early-warning system to identify patterns in attendance and follow up with students. Doing so comes with unique challenges as school records are not always up to date, parents change mobile numbers frequently or do not have telephones at all, and sometimes parents are unreachable. While we follow a strict referral process, the sheer number of cases where the intervention of a social worker is required points to far deeper structural issues and community poverty which will not be adequately dealt with through the intervention of social workers alone (who are often overwhlemed with case-load). The inequalities in our country are not helping.
In addition to the follow up procedure and as part of dealing with the complexities of school dropout, a student committee has been established at each of our high schools and they meet twice a week, together with the Bottomup team and school teachers, to explore both the problem and solutions. We are hopeful that these student-led groups will be able to respond to some of the ways in which the education system in South Africa, the spatial arrangements and distributions of resources also contributes to producing problems such as school dropout.
P4C Training Weekend
We hosted Professor Karin Murris (UCT School of Education), who conducted a 2-day P4C (Philosophy for Children) training workshop at Parkwood Primary School. The aims of P4C is are to communities of inquiry that foster critical, creative, caring and collaborative children. The workshop was attended by teachers and volunteers working in the greater Grassy Park community and those teachers who attended received CPD credits for their participation. As we have learned, the title P4C is somewhat misleading as the pedagogy is not only helpful for children but adults too. We believe that P4C as a tool whether used in an after-school philosophy club or integrated into the daily practice of educators, has the potential to create solid foundations for critical thinking. Encouraging students to ask questions, to probe each other’s reasoning and to interrogate/play with ideas is a great start to challenging traditionally dialogue-poor classrooms which are not uncommon in schools. While P4C finds its theoretical underpinning in the work of Matthew Lipman, there are relatively strong overlaps (admittedly also some strong differences) with the work of Paulo Freire such as Freire’s description of the ‘banking model of education’ and Lipman’s description of the ‘standard paradigm’.
One of our overarching goals as an organisation is to promote critical consciousness and awareness about relationships of power in school, community and wider society. We believe that when children and teenagers understand the relationships between the macro and micro, the public and the private, then they will be able to exercise their agency and have the motivation to pursue social change. P4C can contribute toward this goal by providing a reflective space for children and teenagers to think and explore alternative ideas.
2. Re-Imagine our Schools Camp
As we publish the newsletter we are about to take 30 students on a weekend camp exploring critical action research and social justice in education. We are incredibly thankful to every individual who contributed by sponsoring learners to attend. The group attending the camp are comprised of students from the two high schools we work in (Fairmount Secondary School & Lotus High). All of them have been regular participants in a weekly “committee” that has been discussing and exploring the issue of school dropout within their respective schools. They have been involved in research exercises such as conducting personal interviews with friends who are no longer at school and learning how to work with such information. The students have also been introduced to ideas such as Wright-Mill’s “sociological imagination” and Bronfenbrenner’s “socio-ecological model’, learning to look beyond the ordinary and everyday symptoms toward the less visible root causes of drop-out. On the camp they will be deepening their knowledge about critical action research and collectively exploring the problem of school dropout, as well as starting to think about a plan of action that could be implemented and that they can work on post-camp. We look forward to also hosting Mandy Sanger from the D6 Museum and Dr Heather Jacklin (UCT School of Education) who will be sharing their own stories with the students – their contributions are valued as we seek to create a multi-generational learning experience.
The Education Fish-tank
We are thankful to ‘The Education Fish-tank’, a local popular education initiative, run by students, researchers and education activists that organises important and relevant conversations concerning education. In the past year we have been able to collaborate with this group to have their events hosted in Parkwood. As we believe ‘place’ matters much and speaks powerfully when it comes to concerns of social justice, we are really thrilled that such high calibre conversations could be hosted on the Cape Flats in a manner that is accessible to the community in which we work. In the past month, Josh Platzky-Miller, a Cambridge PhD student presented his thinking on people’s education movements in Brazil and lessons we can learn about democratic education. We also look forward to a hosting an event in November that may involve a series of shorter talks on local school realities (watch this space!).
3. What’s happening at the Parkwood Tech Centre?
The Tech Centre project as many already know was a construction project that was initiated in Term 4 of 2016 and completed in term 1 of 2017. The lab is fully powered by solar, designed for energy efficiency and in such a manner that air conditioning is not required in the summer. Since the completion of construction the room has been furnished with adequate tables and chairs. In this past month we have been able to install a data projector and sound (our first tech equipment!).
The struggle for computing power is ongoing, we have been working on two fronts regarding this. One is a collaborative initiative with UCT’s Engineers Without Borders and the other has been to test the CSI landscape. Thus far our attempts to secure donations in kind or matching grants have been successful. We have relatively specific but open requirements about the devices we wish to install as we do not want another unsustainable computer project on the Cape Flats or devices which are not child/user-friendly. If you have a good contact with an equipment supplier that could help out (not by offering a 5% discount…this too has happened), please let us know.
At present, the centre is being used for teacher/parent workshops and community talks. The installation of the audio-visual equipment now opens the opportunity for multi-media content to be shown to children. Our hope however, is to have sufficient computing power to deliver technology integrated lessons to an entire class of 40 students.
Other Ed News:
On the 17th October 2017, at CPUT Mowbray Campus, there will be a second symposium on public private partnerships in education (i.e. collaboration schools or PSOPs). The symposium is organised by UCT, CITE (at CPUT) and ISER (at Rhodes University).
See the following two links for more information about the Public/Private School Symposium:
Facebook Event Link: https://www.facebook.com/events/519805278362871
RSVP Link: https://goo.gl/forms/kO8v91pyaDSuIgvu1
Here’s another link to the recorded talks of the previous event : https://goo.gl/qn7xQ4
Thank you for your ongoing support of our work.
The Bottomup Team
Also published on Medium.