Streetlight schools: Jeppe Park

Join the Kavli Trust on our visit to Streetlight Schools in Jeppe Park, Johannesburg!

Tekst og foto: Hanne Eide Andersen

Behind a tall, protective fence, but surrounded by bright colours and playground equipment, a group of students stand in a circle. They are singing and clapping their hands. Others are playing on the equipment.

Located in the suburb of Jeppestown in Johannesburg, this is the first school founded by an organisation called Streetlight Schools. They are the Kavli Trust’s new partner in South Africa.

Kids who want to learn, and good relationships between teachers and students. At this school, they work actively to build good relationships, both with personnel and students.

International standard

Inside the school building, we’re greeted by the school’s headmaster, Heidi Augestad. She is the also the main architect behind the educational and administrative models at the school.

The goal has been to allow the students to evolve, and enable them to reach their full potential, at a school that keeps an international level and is attuned to their individual needs.

“We are, as most other non-profit organisations, limited by our economic situation. But through being innovative and thinking creatively, we have managed to build a high-quality school at a low cost,” says Heidi Augestad.

The board and administration of the Kavli Trust on their visit to the school, just before Christmas. Photo: Anthony Galloway

Creative and innovative solutions

The former factory has been redecorated with bright colours and cheap but clever, child friendly solutions that facilitate learning, creative expression and social interaction. A lot of the furniture is made from recycled materials and artefacts.

The results speak for themselves: The students at Streetlight Schools: Jeppe Park perform as well in school as students at other well-functioning schools on an international level.

They perform way above the level of public schools in South Africa. The education system in South Africa is often described as being in crisis, and 70 percent of students leave primary school without being able to read or write fluently.

 

Headmaster Heidi Augestad (left.) is showing us the student exhibition, where several kids have drawn their own difficult experiences.

Drawing trauma

Many of the walls at the school are decorated with drawings, notes and posters carrying all kinds of messages. Some include traffic rules, others have messages about hygiene, weather phenomena and fun-facts.

On a long wall, there’s an exhibition of drawings and paintings made by the students themselves.

“Many of the images tell the compelling stories of what the kids here deal with every day,” says Heidi Augestad.

Some draw things they are afraid of, others recount specific experiences. All the students are from a neighbourhood in Jeppestown plagued with issues like unemployment, domestic violence, drug abuse, street violence and gang related crime. Creative expression such as this is a way for the kids to communicate and process difficult experiences and trauma.

Relations and learning environments

“Many of our students have troubles at home. That requires us to have a good emotional and social safety net here at school, and we also focus on having a good dialogue with their families,” says Heidi Augestad.

“Keeping a high standard of teaching and a competent staff is of course essential. But the learning environment, emotional and social support, and facilitating a good relationship between students and teachers, are all crucial components for our kids to reach their full potential.

All the children at Streetlight Schools: Jeppe Park are living in some of the roughest neighbourhoods in Johannesburg. For many, school is the safest place they will be during a normal day.