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Visit to AMIA Argentina

At the AMIA Community Centre in Argentina we remember the past, cherish the fallen and lost of precious lives and are reminded of the present and the importance of tolerance and peace. We are also aware that a united community will be stronger against any hatred and terror

You burn you build!

This article was written in response to the recent incidences in Limpopo, Vuwani

Burning schools? Is this your last choice to get heard people? What is this protest culture of resorting to hitting the soft spot of the community? Bargaining your children is bargaining your future!  Nearly 50% of the schools in the district of Vuwani were burnt down in protest against the decision to create a new municipality. No one should be interested in why you are protesting when you burn and degrade the one thing that will take your next generation out of their current situation. Yes I’m talking about education. Education is the tool, the means, the biggest investment you can put into your next generation. And what do you do? Destroy it! Abolish the only hope you have for getting out of poverty, unemployment and misery!

You burn you build!??? All the culprits that to be jailed should become the labor force to rebuild the destruction that they have caused! The communities need to wake up and stand up against those bullies otherwise there is no hope! Whether it’s Limpopo or other province whether it’s a promising district, the communities must take accountability for education in their areas and stop pointing blaming fingers to government officials. Enough is enough and if the current leaders, unions and kings don’t stand up and say enough then someone in the community must do that.

More than fifty thousand children have been affected, thousands of children who have nowhere to go and study and no hope for the future. Thirty years’ worth of academic records and paperwork lost at just one school; it is hard to imagine the full impact on all 24 schools. Setting ransom on your children is erroneous, immoral and counterproductive. Stop this culture of burning libraries and schools because soon you’d be digging a grave for yourselves no matter what race, no matter what tribe.


Ariellah Rosenberg, CEO of ORT SA, an Educational NGO affiliated to World ORT, one of the biggest Educational NGOs in the world.

Words for Worlds of Values

“The Constitution of South Africa speaks of both the past and the future.  On the one hand, it is a solemn pact in which we, as South Africans, declare to one another that we shall never permit a repetition of our racist, brutal and repressive past. But it is more than that.  It is also a charter for the transformation of our country into one which is truly shared by all its people – a country which in the fullest sense belongs to all of us, black and white, women and men.”  Former President Nelson Mandela. From the foreword to The Post-Apartheid Constitutions: Perspectives on South Africa’s Basic Law

The South Africa Constitution was the result of intensive negotiations that were carried out with an acute awareness of the injustices of the country’s non-democratic past.  It is now widely regarded as the most progressive Constitution in the world, with a “Bill of Rights” second to none.

Having such an inclusive and exceptional Constitution, highlights the need for a practical approach in the long journey of implementing the “Bill of Rights”.

Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Rabbi Warren Goldstein, stated that there is a national consensus in the country for an immediate need to improve our values and morals.  Initiated by the National Religious Forum, and driven by the Chief Rabbi and the National Department of Basic Education, The “Bill of Responsibilities” was created to meet this need.

The “Bill of Responsibilities” is the mirror image of the “Bill of Rights” and therefore inherits its political and social legitimacy.  I personally believe that it will create an interest beyond the borders of South Africa.  In light of changes that technology has embarked on us, there is a call worldwide for revisiting values and morals.

The Chief Rabbi in his inspirational speech at the recent “Bill of responsibilities” Launch of the Teachers’ Guide said “words create worlds”.  Words reflect the way we see the world.  What words are our children raised on?

The “Bill of Responsibilities” has the words of tolerance and integrity, compassion and justice, human dignity and equality, and consequently has the potential of creating worlds of morals and values upon which our future is raised.

ORT SA has pledged to incorporate the “Bill of Responsibilities” “in house”, establishing role models within our organisation.  Thereafter we will be incorporating it in our training of teachers, aiming at establishing a new “language” for teaching and learning.  We use the words of the “Bill of Responsibilities” and add the tools of Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” to equip our teachers with the tools to teach the “new language”.

An example of this integrated approach is derived from one of our most basic needs – communication.  The right to speak comes from freedom of speech, rooted strongly in the Constitution.  But, our right to speak comes with the responsibility to listen.  In training, we bring in the tool of Covey’s ” 5th Habit, “Seek first to understand before you understood” or “Listen before you talk”.  Simple, but yet so basic.

Everyone has the right to education, but whatever role we hold, we have responsibilities too. As learners, we are responsible to come to school on time, obey the rules and dedicate our efforts to learning , as Educators, we hold the responsibility of being at school on time, teaching, and as Government, Parent Bodies and NGO’s, we hold the responsibility for ensuring that we provide the environment for teaching and learning, and prioritising education on our agendas.

Historical enemies succeeded in negotiating a peaceful transition from apartheid to democracy, exactly because we were prepared to accept the inherent capacity for goodness in the other.  My wish is that South Africans never give up on the belief in goodness, that they cherish that faith in human beings as a cornerstone of our democracy.”  Former President Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela’s trust in the goodness of human beings, reassures us that it is possible to regain values and morals in a society that has already walked a long way.

Proudly Gautrain

Living in JHB you know that there are many horrid stories that can  keep your imagination working and fear subside. But in a recent visit to the Gautrain site I felt that there is a “light at the end of the Gautrain tunnel’ and real pride to have the privilege to witness this amazing project taking shape.

Gautrain started with intentions in 1998 with pre-feasibility study and now 11 years down the timeline- commitment, professionalism and passion turned drawing and vision into reality.


The rail connections consists of North –South between Tshwane (Pretoria) and Johannesburg and West -East between OR Tambo International Airport and Sandton

The three anchor stations will be located at:

  • OR Tambo International Airport;
  • Tshwane; and
  • Johannesburg.

The seven other stations will be located at:

  • Rosebank;
  • Sandton;
  • Marlboro;
  • Midrand;
  • Centurion;
  • Hatfield; and
  • Rhodesfield (Kempton Park).

(Source: www.gautrain.co.za)

If you want to know the amount of soil that had to be shifted, steel to construct, sand for concrete, all this information and more interesting and not so relevant facts are posted on the Gautrain site that  already gained quite numbers of awards.

Photos converted to Video presentation CLICK FOR MOVIE SLIDE

Project based learning bridging gaps

Technology, a subject that was introduced in the SA curriculum in the nineties, is designed to create awareness amongst students for the needs and challenges of society and the environment. The aims of this learning area are to develop knowledge, technological skills as well as thinking and problem solving skills.

ORT SA has for the past four year worked closely with the King David schools to assist teachers with the integration of the subject in the most relevant way and as close to policy as possible. In addition to ensuring that the subject of technology is being tackled, current world-wide educational trends in teaching methods and strategy have been incorporated in ORT SA’s work with the KD schools.

Trends such as project based learning, collaborative learning and web 2.0 based methods are part of students technology projects modeled in the recently introduced Diverse Culture days in King David Linksfield Primary school. These Diverse Culture days have been inspiring and motivating for teachers and students alike.

Grade 7 students received a case study of the socio-economic conditions in which the kids in Alexandra Township live. Alexandra Township which for some is only about five minutes away, is socially and economically worlds apart to what the KD students are exposed to.

Grade 7 students learnt from various sources about the common diseases affecting this township – they listened to a person who was affected by TB, heard about the conditions in Alexandra from teachers who work in schools in Alexandra and learnt about HIV/AIDS from a doctor who specializes in the disease as well as being involved in research to find immunization.
Realizing the importance of healthy nutrition which is hampered by a scarce supply of fruit and vegetables has been the case study for technology and the students designed and made greenhouse models. Kind David Linksfield school included plants to give away to schools in Alexandra.

Grade 6 students who took part in first aid awareness, made first aid kits to donate to schools in Alexandra.

P1020221P1020227P1020206P1020266P1020267 Grade 6+ 7 KDL students  in Diverse Culture Days

A special ceremony is planned where KDL students will hand out the greenhouses and first aid kits they have made to their peers from Ithute Primary School in Alexandra.

The extraordinary thing is that although three subjects were integrated (Technology, Life Orientation and EMS) this required immense time for planning and logistics, and more effort in the execution– teachers LOVED it!

Case studies were real-world and relevant and required students to define the tasks ahead and plan appropriately. Students were required to construct their models at school from scratch (without help from parents) and collaborate with their peers. These days of building this Technology project were vibey with activities filled with passion and enthusiasm expressed by students. The students had FUN!

When I asked a student about this day, her response was “I will definitely remember this when I grow up!”

children’s rights bullies

This week SABC 1, SA TV channel broadcast a programme on “lunchbox bullies” which was filmed in a school located in Alexandra Township, northern part of Johannesburg.

The programme focused on learners who are considered “naughty”- they bully other children, steal their food, beat and punch occasionally during break time. These bullies were then followed to their homes and caregivers were interviewed.

One story revealed a child who has been beaten regularly when he comes home and asks for food. The scars and bruises all over his head can’t hide the truth; His head has been thrown onto the wall and punched and all because he asked to eat!  His grandmother seldom hides food for him while his mother spends her time drinking booze with friends. The reality is that most of the time this child walks hungry, his most basic needs not met. Subsequently at school he is caught stealing a sandwich from someone’s lunch box and R2 from his gran so he can buy a Simba chips for 50cents.

Those learners are an example of many other children living in impoverished areas where children’s rights are violated on a daily basis. 

It just happened to be that the programme was filmed in the same school ORT SA has intervention in Mathematic at the Foundation Phase (Grades 1-3), where intensive work is done with teachers and vast amount of money has gone into provision of resources and textbooks.

Therefore it made me think that there is no doubt that education is critical for these learners and the society they live in. Also the fact that those learners acknowledged the importance of education in their lives may be a step forward to a better future.  However, I’m not sure it’s enough, as very soon those learners will drop out school to satisfy their basic needs and become a burden to society.

Our role as the NGO at these schools is to ensure these learners have access to best education possible. We do what we know best i.e., teachers’ professional development; enhancing content, subject and methodology knowledge, providing support and mentoring to ensure implementation. We obviously want to ensure impact on learners. 

 How are we to deal with these out of control factors affecting child’s performance?

Is it our responsibility?

What are we to do?

Thoughts? Please share your thoughts, suggestions and experiences.

Keep your rebelling teenagers safe

 I have been pondering about cyber bullying, internet safety and the virtual world and its effect on our teenage children. Worrying where our children go in the virtual world and who they meet are all genuine and important reservations.

But what happens in the REAL world? Where are our teenagers boys and girls spend their “free” time, HOW they spend it and with whom? This was on the agenda of my daughter’s high school parents evening.  An undercover policeman, a Rabbi and people who “have been there” took part of a panel discussion.

Clubbing, under-age alcohol drinking, Hubbly-bubbly smoking, ID faking and drugs are all dangers that are not unique to a certain area, social status or school.  They can affect any of our children who are in their most vulnerable stage; young and naïve yet regard themselves grown up and mature. Their “duty” as teenager to rebel exposes them at risk to temptations out there. And these, apparently exist all over. Even these so called “Under-18” socials are no safe zone from those dangers.

Here are my thoughts based on the discussion held with the panel and parents:

  1. Technology, Cell phones and the use of computers are NOT the cause for our children loosing respect in us parents. They may be the reason for a broader gap between generations but technology cannot be held accountable for the fact that we don’t control our children.
  2. Setting up boundaries and rules are crucial to enable us gain control. We are not set to seek the love of our children at this stage. They will appreciate it though in a later stage in their life. Be it based on religion, tradition or your believes these rules and boundaries are our responsibilities to our children.
  3. TALK to your children, from an early stage, about the dangers out there and the reasons for rules and boundaries. All in small doses from early stage will hopefully build a child that is strong, knowledgeable and have the power to face peer-pressure when needed.

Oh, they will rebel, no doubt about it, but let them find “safer” zones to fight you about. After all this is in their “job description”.

 Please share with us how your school and community are dealing with this problem .


Sawubona Ivory Park

Whenever we start a new project in a previously disadvantaged area, I get excited to meet the teachers and principals of the schools we are working at and look forward to meeting them during the project.

The excitement and anticipation, makes me think…

The state of education in this country is not great to say the least. In 2008 only 62.5% of Grade 12 learners passed matric; but an even gloomier picture is when you compare the number of learners in Grade 11 in 2007 to the number of these learners that wrote matric. Then you discover that only 64% of those grade 11 learners wrote matric in 2008. Of this original cohort of 2007 only 36.2% passed matric. Some regard this number as a more accurate state of the matric pass rate. Link for SIRR report

Another sad number is that only about 20% of the students who passed matric qualify to enroll to undergraduate study at university, (11.7% if you do the math from 2007)

While I don’t think this is a situation that can be fixed from today to tomorrow, I am optimistic…We have to get to the roots of the problem.

I believe the efforts should start from early Childhood. Trying to “fix” the problem at the high school level is too late and as we can see, it does not achieve any progress.

Therefore I feel lucky to be working at an organization such as ORT, who has the vision of “educating for life” , targets Foundation and Intermediate Phase teachers and  is close to cutting edge technologies that are applied in our services of teachers’ training and on-site support.

So these are my thoughts when we are launching the Ivory Park ABSA project. This project aims to enhance the Science and Technology state in the Ivory Park area for Foundation and Intermediate Phase teachers.

The launch in the community centre in Ivory Park is due next week on the 25th of February 2009 and I am looking forward to welcome all … Sawubona! (Hello in Zulu)

Happy holidays

This is why it is time for me to go on leave…catsleeping

Wishing you all restful, safe and most enjoyable break!



. *Sources of photographs – unknown. Recieved via emails

Merry Twitter

Happy holidays, Merry Christmas and Chanukka Sameach to all.

There are many useful sites, blogs and posts on Twitter. Decided to share the following Comic that appeared on the Saturday Star – SA local Newspaper

Happy Twittering!