There has been a rapid increase in community-focused schools throughout South Africa resulting in an important impact on the accessibility of quality education in the country, as well as the quality of life of the communities in which they are located, an education expert says.
“All schools are situated within a community, but a true community school has an offering and ethos focused on what the community in which it is situated demands,” explains Christo De Wit, Managing Director of the College Brands within the ADvTECH Schools Division.
“Community schools strive to maintain a constant relationship with the people living in their surrounds, and will at all times be welcoming to their community, encouraging the community to come into the school,” he says.
De Wit says in contrast to traditional schools, which are usually seen as an add-on to a community, these ‘community schools’ place the area in which they are located at the heart of their offering and strategy.
The aim is to become an integral part of that neighbourhood as they become a place where families have access to the school’s facilities and a safe place to enjoy their family time. Great attention is also given to the look and feel of the landscaping to ensure the schools are welcoming and safe, and that they create as pride in the community.
“Building a strong sense of community in schools is both important and achievable, and the impact of doing this has significantly positive outcomes for the wider community, regardless of whether they are directly involved with the school,” says De Wit.
“And the positive impact is also felt by the learners who attend these schools, who are prepared more holistically to become valuable members of society and well-rounded professionals. As such, there is an inclusive approach in the students that are accepted to the school. Furthermore, the schools will create a communication and reporting system that will create a sense of involvement in the school and allows for total transparency in the offering.”
Taking up the community schools mantle, ADvTECH Schools recently announced the rebranding of four of their existing schools located in Centurion (Pinnacle College Copperleaf), Midrand (Pinnacle College Kyalami), Edenvale (Pinnacle College Founders Hill) and Benoni (Pinnacle College Rynfield).
The schools have been added to the Pinnacle Colleges Brand and will provide a reasonably priced education which does not compromise on quality.
“The schools in the Pinnacle Colleges brand will be developing their community programmes as the schools grow and collaborate further with the communities in which they are located. The focus will be on assisting the immediate community at all times through events and assistance programmes run by the school, which allows the students to grow as responsible citizens who understand the importance of their contribution.”
De Wit notes however that the strong focus on community does not mean that academic excellence takes a back seat, as the social responsibility aspect is ultimately complementary to the academic offering.
“It is important however that this kind of balanced, holistic offering informs the approach of more and more schools, to ensure that it becomes accessible to a substantially greater number of South African parents and students at a more cost sensitive price,” says De Wit.
“Community schools have the potential to become important beacons of hope for the general public in the area, while offering the children that attend them everything they want and need to succeed in life.”