At the heart of every new day in Bulembu is tomorrow. The future is what every hug, every meal, every article of clothing, every new building, every new bicycle, every new classroom is centered on. The best way to make sure there is a future for Bulembu and Swaziland as a whole is through preparation. The orphaned children in Bulembu are being prepared to make a way for a successful future.
One vital component in the preparation comes from the loving care they receive at home, another from the Biblical foundation being poured into their hearts, and another still is their education. The Bulembu Christian Academy is the epicenter for the children but because there are so many unknown elements behind each child’s arrival in Bulembu, throwing them into the mix just won’t work. Great care and compassion goes into preparing the way for each child. That’s the reason behind the Bulembu Primary School’s Education Development Centre (EDC).
Bulembu Primary School’s Principal, Michelle Loubser, and her team, Anje Steenkamp, Magdel De Klerk, and Lesley Shirk established the Education Development Centre in July 2011. Its purpose is to prepare the way for a proper fit in education for each child who will attend Bulembu Primary School (Grade 1 through Grade 6). The team uses specialized learning techniques that assess and analyze age respective level of academia. Whether educational barriers specific or emotional in nature, the educators and leaders believe it is far better for the child’s development that students are placed in classrooms where peers are of the same age regardless of their academic level. But it can be tremendously challenging integrating children with limited schooling background into age appropriate classrooms.
Whether through play therapy, interactive exercises, classroom lessons or individual work assignments, the EDC team approaches each lesson with two principles in mind: that education can be and should be fun, and that every child has great potential.
The EDC sees on average 30 children per week with each child receiving almost three hours of assessment and coaching in that week. Though each boy and girl is unique in his or her own circumstances, the faculty consistently works to address two overarching questions: what is the child’s learning barrier and how can it be overcome. It is the vision of the EDC staff to have each child reach the mastering stage in less than three months although there have been cases where some children have stayed in the program longer. The program stages are beginning, developing and mastering in terms of overcoming their learning barrier.
While most of the students who attend the EDC are new to the Bulembu school system, there are opportunities for students who have been in the system for a while but are struggling academically to be placed in the EDC program. That means the EDC and primary school function cohesively as one single entity creating customized teachings that cater specifically to a child’s individual learning style. The ultimate goal is to build upon the pillars that the primary school teachers continue to set in place; one preparing the way for the next steps in life.
Less than six months old, the EDC is already finding great success as the Swaziland government has taken notice and outside schools look to partner with the EDC. Most important, the children of Bulembu are being given the chance to succeed and continue to prepare the way for future generations.
By Theresia Whitfield