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Survey endorses essential role of school halls
Promising results of Archway Foundation research

School halls play an essential role in successful holistic education.

Used to full advantage, they have also proved to help integrate the school and surrounding inhabitants into a positive unified force that has a capacity to transform both social and economic circumstances in disadvantaged communities.

These were primary among the findings of a six-month survey of schools in the Western Cape that have received multi-purpose halls from the Archway Foundation, established by residential housing developer Garden Cities.

Within eight years, 38 schools received halls (note: by 2017 nearly 80 halls will have been provided) from the Archway Foundation. To ensure that the purpose of the halls was being served as accurately as possible, the foundation commissioned consultant researcher Brenda Matthews and journalist Neill Hurford to conduct a survey of those schools that had been using the halls for long enough to make an accurate assessment of their value.

Altogether 30 schools were surveyed – two recent recipients were used in a pilot study to refine the poll. The findings were delivered to the Garden Cities’ Board in August.

One of the most powerful messages to come from the survey was the unsolicited declaration by a number of principals that they could not do their job effectively without the presence of a school hall. Another said he would refuse a transfer or promotion to a school that did not have one.

ENORMOUS BOOST IN PRESTIGE

Close to 100% of respondents reported that their schools had experienced an enormous boost in prestige after having received the halls. This had been endorsed both by the community and the pupils, who expressed a special new pride in their school. In the most successful cases, the halls have promoted community involvement that has included job opportunities, fundraising, and greater harmony between the school and the surrounding population.

Underlining the belief that a hall’s effectiveness lay in its use, as opposed to its mere availability, was the significant discovery is that the schools most successfully using their Archway Hall are led by a principal who is motivated, enthusiastic and supported by a team of teachers who generally felt the same.

ARCHWAY TO REFINE CRITERIA

As a result, the Archway is refining its criteria for the provision of school halls in its programme, to include an assessment of the likely full exploitation of the hall in the hands of the principal and staff. In most of the successful cases examined, the schools were keen to include the community in their good fortune and, where relations were good, neighbours took a proprietary interest in the hall. The survey acknowledged that the majority of the sample population had grown up influenced by a vast array of adverse circumstances, including violence, substance abuse, conflict, and poverty. It was also accepted that positive environmental circumstances promoted growth.

Recommendations made as a result of the survey results included that schools be encouraged to develop stronger links with local communities, and that the communities be involved and informed of all important school projects so that they can work with the schools to achieve success.

It was stressed that for collaborative efforts to be successful there needed to be a culture of partnership in the school.

A conclusion of the study seen as pivotal to the success of social transformation in communities was that powerful school-community associations are crucial in poor communities, where schools often assume a major role in the public domain and may be the single exemplary employer.

BECOME AN ARCHWAY FOUNDATION PARTNER The Archway Foundation calls on other CSI bodies to become partners in the striving to provide the required 700 school halls for the children of the Western Cape. For more information view our site or call John Matthews on 021 558 7181

Archway Foundation fosters reading in Western Cape Library Competition

Three little Cape Town junior schoolgirls emerged as the winners out of 31 finalists in the annual Library Information Services District 4 reading competition for which residential development company Garden Cities provided the prizes.

The event culminated at the Belhar Civic Centre in a morning of entertainment and fierce competition among the boys and girls who had reached the finals. The children were drawn from schools covered by the District 4 library information service including Belhar, Delft, Gugulethu, Crossroads and Athlone, representing 20% of the total coverage of libraries in the Western Cape. District 4 supports 15 libraries.

The three winners were Mabuzele Mfeketo of Sikelela Imizamo Primary School in Crossroads, Fadwa Fakier of Rondebosch East Primary and Nadia Williams of Montana Primary in Kalksteenfontein who won prizes valued at R7 300 donated by the Archway Foundation.

The competition started in 2003 in Valhalla Park and now includes the entire district. The winners are chosen in three categories – those reading in English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa. In the competition, each contestant reads from a text that they haven't seen before and are also judged on comprehension as well as their results in a short spelling test. Each category has a first, second and third position.

Dairmaid Wessels, Library Information Services District 4 Manager, said that the competition was growing fast and he expected it would spread to a large proportion of the 6 districts. Contributions from companies such as Garden Cities, through its Corporate Social Investment arm The Archway Foundation, were valuable in creating an incentive for the children to compete. 'They respond well to the thought of a decent prize for their efforts,' he said.

The prizes included three scientific calculators, memory sticks, and a CD player for the three first prizewinners. All the contestants got goodie bags and all 31 finalists were given a starter savings account of R100 each. Garden Cities' Chief Financial Officer Kim Gibson presented the prizes and the event was also attended by the company CEO, John Matthews.

The Archway Foundation has so far provided 36 halls for disadvantaged schools in the Western Cape and its programme is on-going against a need for 700 halls in the province.

Any company wanting to assist with providing school halls should call John Matthews on 021 5587181.

School hall a metaphor for academic progress

Principal endorses Archway Foundation's work

So important is the Archway Hall in his school grounds that principal Cliffie Vraagom intends to use it as a metaphor for academic achievement.

Around 1 200 high school children attend Mr Vraagom's school, Diazville Secondary, in Saldanha, where he and his staff of 40 teachers have set an enormously high standard and the school's results are exemplary.

'There must always be a way of rewarding achievement, and there are some conventional means that include certificates and medals. But it struck me that the school's greatest achievement was its acquisition of our Archway Foundation school hall, and this should in some way feature in the reflection of our learners' progress through the school,' he said.

His ambition, ever since the hall was built and handed over in 2009, was to collect enough money to build a gallery level at the back of the hall, which could be used as audience seating during performances and school assemblies and then, also, as a much more personal measure of achievement for the senior pupils.

As soon as the mezzanine gallery is completed, it will become the domain of the senior classes in the school. They will occupy the three levels on the gallery during assembly, while the rest of the school will be seated on the ground floor level. 'Even on the main floor, seniority will be indicated by the position of the classes during assembly,' says Mr Vraagom. 'Junior classes will be in front, and will progress to the rear of the hall until they too one day occupy the gallery'. The levels of the gallery will also be used for pupil project work during the school day.

John Matthews, CEO of Garden Cities and head of the Archway Foundation, said that Mr Vraagom's initiative was another example of excellence in education. 'Our recent research has shown that a school hall is acknowledged as primarily important to the successful holistic education of our children. Cliffie Vraagom entirely endorses that, and in so doing, has enhanced the function of his hall immeasurably. We applaud him and urge others to take just such a lateral view'.

The Archway Foundation was established by the Board of the company at the instigation of John Matthews eight years ago.

Cliffie Vraagom is an innovative educator and is considered to be one of the headmasters who have made the very best of their hall. It is generously shared with the community and other schools in the area who do not have a hall. It is also used to raise funds for school requirements in a number of creative ways. Funding for the R198 000 gallery has been raised by the school through events and the contributions of benefactors.

Mr Vraagom has visited the halls at schools headed by his colleagues and gained insights from those who have shown the most initiative in the use of their halls. He acknowledges Archie Benjamin, head of Mount View High School in Hanover Park as one of the top achievers in the optimum utilization of his hall. 'He is a very good example.'

The Archway Foundation has in eight years built nearly 40 halls for children of the Western Cape at schools in disadvantaged areas. This has given over 50 000 kids a place to hold assemblies, stage theatrical events, play indoor sports and host the pupils of other schools at joint occasions. But there are over one million children in the province who don't have a hall.

They each cost around R4 000 000 to build.

The Foundation has valuable corporate collaborators and the WCED to help in the efforts to provide halls as fast as possible, but it invites others to vote funds to assist with the building of the halls. Each contributor has full naming rights to the hall, and can use it to enhance their CSI programmes in the media and in their market place.

Call John Matthews on 021 558 7181

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