Leave no child behind: The importance of education for all

In 1960, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) adopted the Convention against Discrimination in Education, which explicitly prohibited any “exclusion from, or limitation to, educational opportunities on the basis of socially-ascribed or perceived differences, such as by sex, ethnic/social origin, language, religion, nationality, economic condition, ability”. This convention sought to ensure access to quality education for all learners, no matter where they come from or what kind of educational needs they have.

Decades later, the UNESCO 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development further emphasised this important sentiment in Sustainable Development Goal 4, again pledging to leave no child behind.

Even so, 262 million children and youth worldwide are not attending school, for varying reasons.

The situation is often much more dire for children who have specific special education needs. As poverty prevents parents and guardians from educating their children at schools that cater for the needs of learners with developmental and learning difficulties, these learners – and all the potential that they carry within them – often fall through the cracks, leaving them with no hope of attaining the skills that will lift them out of their challenging circumstances. Locally, Human Rights Watch in 2015 estimated that more than 600,000 children with disabilities are not in the school system in South Africa.

For more than two decades, Sparrow Schools has made it our mission to address this important need by removing the barriers that prevent active learning, whatever they may be. Our teaching approach caters for a variety of educational needs, and especially also to the needs of learners with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This group of disorders, which include Asperger syndrome and childhood autism, may lead to a range of challenges to learning, including social, communication and behavioural difficulties.

At Sparrow Foundation School, we have diversified our approach to include extramural programmes like Catrobatkidz, which seeks to improve coordination, gross and fine motor skills and spatial relationships, among other beneficial properties of this physical approach to improving learning and learner behaviour in the classroom.

Sparrow has seen wonderful results from learners who take part in the Catrobatkidz programme and this, coupled with a teaching approach that focuses on equipping learners with the skills that will empower them in the future, has enabled us to provide quality education to learners who would otherwise never see themselves complete their schooling.

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This is how learners with special needs performed in the 2019 NSC exam

The class of 2019’s matric results, announced by the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, on 7 January this year set a new record: of the 504,303 learners who wrote the National Senior Certificate exams last year, 81.3% passed. However, what often doesn’t get as much attention as the overall results and the top achievers are the number of learners with special needs that also passed, many with a slew of distinctions in tow.

Learners who wrote their matric exams in 2018 already set a high standard, with 76.5% of the 3,051 learners with special needs who wrote the National Senior Certificate exams passing. In addition, these learners also amassed no less than 1,119 distinctions, and 1,669 learners (almost 55%) received Bachelor passes, enabling them to pursue further tertiary study.

In 2019, 2,255 learners with special needs took the matric exam, and of this group, 1,281 learners achieved admission to Bachelor studies, while 684 achieved admission to diploma studies. This group of pupils also managed to garner a total of 1,277 distinctions between them.

What is notable is the way in which these learners, who have conditions ranging from autism spectrum disorder, dyslexia and bipolar disorder to visual and hearing impairment, have taken these challenges – and sometimes many others – in their stride.

Says 2019’s top performing special needs learner, Tiyani Mbendzani, who completed his matric at the Rivoni School for the Blind in Elim, Limpopo: “What I have realised is that my disability never stops me from doing whatever it is that I want, and my disability is nothing.”

This, despite difficult conditions and infrastructure problems at his school.

It is stories like Tiyani’s that drive our educational philosophy at Sparrow Foundation School, where empowering learners for the future is the main item on the agenda. With dedicated staff and a commitment to excellence in spite of challenging domestic circumstances, we are proud of what our learners have, and are yet to, achieve.

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Sparrow success stories: Phumziwe and Justin

At Sparrow FET College, we pride ourselves on the difference our alumni make in the country once they’ve completed their training at Sparrow.

As such, it is always a pleasure to share some of our students’ success stories.

We sat down with Phumziwe Vanessa Ndinesa and Justin Tebogo Mojapelo, two former Sparrow students who are now using the skills they acquired at Sparrow to empower themselves and the South African workforce at large.

Where did you complete your schooling?

Phumziwe: “I started grade 1 at Madiba Primary School, then progressed to Samelson Business College, but left a year later to attend Mahareng Secondary School, where I completed my grade 12.”

Justin: “I attended Sir John Adamson High School.”

What course(s) did you complete at Sparrow FET College?

Phumziwe: “I did IT Technical Support at Sparrow FET College.”

Justin: “I completed two courses at Sparrow FET College: Professional Cookery and Assistant Chef.”

Which company sponsored your course?

Phumziwe: “I was sponsored by a company called Principa.”

Justin: “I was sponsored by SPAR.”

Where are you currently employed?

Phumziwe: “I am employed at Sparrow FET College as an ICT Junior Technician.”

Justin: “I’m currently employed at the Piza ē Vino restaurant in Lynnwood, Pretoria.”

What is your favourite quote or saying?

Phumziwe: “I actually have two. ‘The world receives what you present to it’, and ‘I may not have the power to control people’s actions, but I have the power to control how I react’.”

What personal or educational achievements would you count amongst your greatest?

Phumziwe: “For me, every day of my life has become my daily achievement because I get to exceed my limitations, and also get to see someone’s life changing through what I said or did. Those, for me, are greater achievements.”

Justin: “I graduated in both courses at Sparrow.”

Which obstacles did you have to overcome to reach your current success?

Phumziwe: “In February 2017, I was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, which led to my disability. GBS is a rare autoimmune condition where the body attacks itself internally, and in my case, the membranes covering my nerves got shuttered, preventing the brain from communicating with my body. I was fortunate enough to be sent to South Rand Hospital for rehabilitation and extensive therapy, where I regained some of my strength and started living life on a positive note.”

Justin: “Growing up, I used to be a really bad boy. After finding my passion, I stopped all my naughty and irresponsible ways.”

Phumziwe and Justin, we are ecstatic to have had a hand in your current success, and look forward to seeing where the roads of life take you. You are inspirational and the epitome of what Sparrow FET College is all about.

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Sparrow FET College opens George Marsh Training Centre

 

In alignment with the Sparrow Schools Educational Trust’s vision to expand our students’ capability to earn a livelihood, Sparrow FET College was proud to officially open the newly completed George Marsh Training Centre on 23 January 2020.

The centre, which will accommodate approximately 240 unemployed youth, was opened with great fanfare, and Sparrow was honoured to have the Founder of the Sparrow Schools Foundation UK and current Sparrow Foundation UK trustee, George Marsh, from whom this building takes its name, with us on the day.

George Marsh’s connection to Sparrow Schools spans decades, and Sparrow is proud to honour this loyal supporter and contributor to education in this way. A former headmaster at Dulwich Preparatory School in London – a committed and dedicated Sparrow Schools supporter – Marsh was hailed by Sparrow Schools General Manager, Jackie Gallagher, who recalled how he “walked alongside me during my Sparrow journey”.

The Sparrow Foundation UK has indeed had a significant hand in making Sparrow what it is today, contributing 15% of the overall budget and around R20-million in all over the past 20 years.

Sparrow is immensely proud of how this centre, equipped with the latest technology, will contribute to learning and training at Sparrow FET College. We would not have been able to achieve this milestone in our history without the generous support of a number of people and organisations.

Our earnest and heartfelt thanks go to:

  • The Sparrow Foundation UK, for continued financial support, also with regards to contributions towards the building of the George Marsh Training Centre.
  • Piero Pallini and the team at CyberPro Consulting, for funding towards the cabling and networking of the new centre.
  • Peter Clarke and the team at LanDynamix, for their pro bono consulting services, IT layout support and advice on security.
  • Neal Umpleby, our architect of many years.
  • JTSON Construction, John Munday and our builders, for professional and timeous construction of the building.
  • Sparrow SA trustees, supporters, clients and friends, for their continued support to help us reach our education and training goals.
  • Sparrow staff, and especially Peter and Grant, for six months of continued effort and hard work, even throughout December.
  • Sparrow partner, South Bakels and our Cookery and Hospitality students, who prepared delicious snacks and refreshments on the day.

In the words of South African poet, Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, “only when we stand together can we say that we have won”. We look to the future with a united vision of education for all, and look forward to the ways in which the George Marsh Training Centre will enable and empower the students at Sparrow FET College.

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10 activity ideas to keep the kids busy this December holiday

10 activity ideas to keep the kids busy this December holiday

As much as we’re all looking forward to putting our feet up this December vacation, many parents have feelings of trepidation about how they’ll keep the kids busy for the six weeks until the next school year starts.

Fear not! Here are 10 activity ideas that’ll occupy the children for at least some of the time.

1. Let them help with household chores

Kids won’t be fussed with doing chores unless there’s some external motivation involved. Run a competition for the duration of the December break – the child who has completed the most chores over the holiday wins a prize! Your home has never been as tidy this time of year.

2. Let them sort out and donate toys and clothes they aren’t using

Have the kids sort out their rooms, and donate the things they aren’t wearing or using to a worthy organisation. This encourages and fosters a sense of sharing and shared responsibility – something that isn’t just important during the festive season, but all the time.

3. Let them play dress-up

Is there anything more fun than rummaging through mom and dad’s closet and putting on an haute couture fashion show?

4. Put on a play

Have the children write, direct and perform their own play. Invite the neighbours to enjoy the show.

5. Visit the library

Public libraries are wonderful oases of stillness and relaxation, and these institutions often run holiday programmes as well. You’ll be ensuring entertainment that also has an educational slant.

6. Visit an animal shelter

Another way to entertain the kids and give something back is to take them to an animal shelter as volunteers. They’ll be taking a load off of these organisations, which are especially under pressure this time of year, and they’ll have a great time doing it.

7. Let them do festive arts and crafts

Why not keep them busy with festive-themed arts and crafts? Here are some ideas to get you started.

8. Take their art to the streets

Arm them with coloured chalk, and let their creativity loose on the driveway or sidewalk.

9. Have a picnic in the park

Let them pack a picnic basket and head out to your nearest public park for a summers’ day out in nature.

10. Have them learn a new skill

Has your child always wanted to try tennis, swimming or learning a new language, but there’s just never enough time? The December break is a great time to have them explore these interests and bump up on their skills while they’re at it.

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Tips for keeping your kids safe during the December holidays

Tips for keeping your kids safe during the December holidays


The holidays are fast approaching, and although the festive season is associated with families spending time together, fun activities, celebrations and relaxing, there are also certain increased risks parents or guardians should be aware of and prepare for.
Here are tips for protecting your family, especially the younger members, this festive season:
1. Supervision during water-based activities
Unfortunately, drownings are a common occurrence over the festive season. Whether at the ocean, in a swimming pool or at a waterpark, supervision is vital to keep your children safe. Discuss the perils of drowning with your children in a calm and informative manner – they need to be aware of the danger, and not risk themselves. They need to understand that they are only allowed to enter the water when an informed adult is present, and to stick to shallow waters, depending on their age and swimming ability.
Young children should also always be wearing swimming safety equipment when in proximity to the water, whether safety wings, life jackets, etc., depending on their swimming ability.
When it comes to swimming, safe is always better than sorry.
2. Teach your children road safety rules
Traffic accidents and incidents are notoriously high over holiday periods, and the festive season is no exception. Teach your children road safety rules, like how to cross streets, and ensure that they are aware of the danger of not following these rules. They should also know that other people don’t always follow the road rules, and that they therefore always need to pay close attention when crossing the road.
Older children might spend time away from you, getting rides from friends or other people. Ensure they know to never get into a vehicle being driven by an intoxicated person – they need to understand that they will be risking their lives, and it is never worth it.
Also, should you be traveling during the festive season, ensure you are well rested, especially for longer road trips. You can also limit distractions on the road by planning activities or packing toys that will keep young children occupied during the trip.
3. Safety around the home
If your children are old enough to stay at home alone, make sure they are informed of expected guests or deliveries, and are aware that they should not open the door to strangers. They should also inform you if they see anything (or anyone) strange around the home or neighbourhood – again, safe is better than sorry.
4. Help your kids memorise your contact details
Whether your children have cell phones or not, it is important that they memorise your or another family member’s number – cell phones can die, get lost or stolen, and your children should always be able to reach you.
5. Establish a separation protocol
Getting separated from your children in a busy shopping centre or on a beach is every parent’s worst nightmare. This is why you should establish a separation protocol. Always point out people of authority your child should go to in case of separation, for example security guards or information booths in shopping centres, or lifeguards on the beach. This is also an instance in which it is vital for your children to have memorised your contact details.

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Here is how Catrobatkidz is making a real difference for Sparrow learners

Here is how Catrobatkidz is making a real difference for Sparrow learners

Catrobatkidz has been helping learners all over the country develop and improve their body awareness, balance, locomotion, gross and fine motor skills, spatial relationships, rhythm and timing, strength, flexibility, and coordination since 2001, and Sparrow is fortunate to also offer our learners the opportunity to take part in this movement exercise-based educational programme.

Sparrow educators have certainly noticed improvement in the learners taking part in Catrobatkidz – here are some real-life success stories from the classroom. The names of learners have been changed to initials in order to protect their privacy.

It helps learners to better listen to and follow instructions

The Catrobatkidz programme may be a physical endeavour, but it has reaped real benefits for learners who have trouble listening to and following instructions.

Ms Tayla Robertson, who runs the Catrobatkidz programme at Sparrow, has cited E. as a good example here. When the learners started with Catrobatkidz in the second term of this year, E. was not able to listen to or follow instructions at all, but is now able to follow instructions with much more ease – this holds real benefits in the classroom, where listening is an indispensable skill.

It helps learners to better understand and use English

Considering English is not the first language of most of Sparrow’s learners, it is critical to develop their English language skills in the foundation phase. Catrobatkidz, which uses English as the instructional language, has really helped B. to improve her English language skills. This means that she will also be able to perform better in class.

It aids learners with behavioural issues

V.’s bad behaviour made Catrobatkidz a struggle when she first started with the programme. Thanks to Catrobatkidz, V. has shown vast behavioural improvement, and is also better at following instructions.

It helps learners who struggle to concentrate and stay on task

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is something that can be challenging to both learners and educators, but is unfortunately quite prevalent among learners today, for a variety of reasons. When they started with Catrobatkidz in term two, K. had troubled listening properly, M. would constantly shout out answers, and P. walked around all the time. These learners’ experience with the Catrobatkidz programme has improved these behavioural patterns in every instance.

The behavioural and skills improvement that the Sparrow learners who take part in Catrobatkidz have shown is not only restricted to the programme, but has also translated to improvements in their academic abilities, performance, and overall wellbeing. We are grateful to Catrobatkidz for the important work they do for the learners at Sparrow, and are excited to see further improvement in 2020.

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Graduates, jumpstart your career in 2020 with these tips

Graduates, jumpstart your career in 2020 with these tips


2020 is around the corner, with all-new possibilities to discover – a blank calendar waiting to be filled in. Will 2020 be the year you enter the job market and start building a career? If so, you should give yourself the best chance of success by properly preparing.
From writing the perfect cover letter and CV to impressing in an interview, these tips will help you on your professional journey:
1. Find a job you can apply for
There are many online job portals where vacancies are advertised. You can usually set up notifications on these portals, and then receive information about any new job listings that fit with your requirements.
Also visit the actual websites of companies you are interested in working for or that you think might have opportunities for you. Some companies only list vacancies on their own websites to ensure candidates are interested in the company specifically.
Also, never underestimate the power of your network of friends and family. Tell them that you are looking for a job. Specify what you are looking for and what skills and experience you have. You never know – they might know someone who knows someone, who is looking for someone with your skillset.
2. Compile the perfect CV
When it comes to CVs, you need to keep it professional, simple and to the point. While you might have a standard CV listing your experience and qualifications, it is always best to adapt it to the specific job you are applying for. This might mean focusing on specific skills, highlighting areas of experience relevant to the job, etc. Ask yourself, “Why should I be considered for this position? Why can I do this job?” – your CV should answer these questions. This will show the recruiter or HR person processing the CVs that you actually thought about the job and its requirements, and that is sure to make a good impression.
3. Write the perfect cover letter
A cover letter is your first introduction to the recruiter or HR person, and if it does not impress, they might not even look at your CV. Just like your CV, your cover letter should be catered specifically to the job you are applying for. A generic cover letter is easy to spot, and could convey that you did not carefully consider the actual advertisement, or do not care enough about the position. Also, like your CV, the cover letter should be professional, simple and to the point. Don’t overcomplicate it with “high-brow” language or a lot of unnecessary explanations. Simply answer the questions: “Why should I be considered for this position? Why can I do this job? Why will I be a good fit with the company?”
4. Do research before the interview
As soon as you get an interview, you need to start preparing – this is your chance to convince the interviewer that you should get the job, so make it count. Research the company, and really think about the position you’re applying for ¬– how can you use your skills and experience to excel in this position? What do you bring to the company? How will you add value? How can you grow in the position, and grow the position? If you can covey these answers, you are sure to impress the interviewer.
5. Impress at the interview
And now it’s time for the interview, your chance to sell yourself to the company. It is important to create a positive impression, and the best way to do this is to:
• Be punctual.
• Dress professionally.
• Be open, friendly and smile.
• Talk clearly.
• Answer questions honestly.
• Be yourself, interviewers are good at spotting phonies.
• Convey that you are organised – if you have documents to submit, they should be organised so that you don’t have to shuffle through them to find the right ones.
• Stay calm and collected – if you’re nervous, take a moment to take a deep breath to calm your nerves.
If you’ve prepared properly and follow the above tips, there is no reason why your interview shouldn’t be a success.
6. Don’t give up
Although it is very disheartening when you don’t get the job you applied for, don’t let it get you down. Another candidate might simply have been a better fit for the company at that particular time, and an even better opportunity might be waiting for you just around the corner.
Good luck!

 

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Corporate social responsibility: Do your part and make a difference

Corporate social responsibility: Do your part and make a difference


In a nutshell, the European Commission has defined corporate responsibility (CSR) as “the responsibility of enterprises for their impacts on society”. Although very simplified, this definition gets to the heart of what corporate social responsibility is – how companies can implement and sustain initiatives and strategies that ensure they positively affect society and their communities.
Corporate social responsibility has many benefits for a company. Today, socially-aware consumers and employees place a high importance on working for and spending their money with businesses that prioritise CSR.
A 2015 study by the Kenexa High Performance Institute in London found that companies that had a true commitment to corporate social responsibility by far outperformed those that did not, with an average return on assets 19 times higher.
Research by Cone Communications also reflects how much importance consumers place on corporate social responsibility. According to the research, 63% of Americans hope businesses will drive social and environmental change in the absence of government regulation. Nearly 90% of the consumers surveyed said they would buy a product because a company supported an issue they care about. More importantly, roughly 75% will refuse to buy from a company if they learn it supports an issue contrary to their own beliefs.
Thus, a company’s corporate social responsibility strategies and initiatives deeply impact its image with consumers.
When it comes to employees, studies have found that an employer’s CSR strategies affect morale and engagement. This is especially true for millennials, who are estimated to make up 75% of the workforce by 2025.
It becomes very clear that corporate social responsibility makes perfect business sense – but where should you start?
Corporate social responsibility falls into four categories: environmental efforts and sustainability, philanthropy, ethical labour practices and volunteering. All four areas are very important, and companies should incorporate all four into their CSR strategy, however, here we will focus on philanthropy in particular.
Philanthropy involves becoming involved with a charity, cause or NGO, usually by providing financial aid, products or services. It is important to choose a cause that reflects the company’s ideals, so a successful partnership can be formed. Choosing a local cause to invest in will also benefit the company’s community.
While there are many worthy causes deserving of aid, consider the impact the charity or cause has on the community, its potential for growth, and its potential impact on South Africa as a country.
An example of an NGO changing lives and positively impacting South Africa is the Sparrow Schools Educational Trust. Since its inception in 1990, it has focused on bringing accredited schooling to cognitively-disabled and disadvantaged youth. It has since then established and expanded organisational structures to address a wider range of needs found in the current South African environment – this includes the creation of Sparrow FET College in 2010.
The Sparrow FET College adopts a theory, practice and real-world application approach to skills development. In the classroom, learners cover theoretical curriculum content in a simulated workplace environment through which theoretical and practical skills are taught and applied. Learners then carry these skills to their industry placement.
Sparrow FET College and the industry work together to provide learners with internships during which they are fully supported, comprehensively trained, and prepared for future employment.
Tackling education and unemployment in South Africa is indeed a worthy cause, and there are also additional benefits for corporations that support Sparrow. For more information, visit the Sparrow website.

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Why vocational training is important in the South African economic landscape

Why vocational training is important in the South African economic landscape

Speaking to Brand South Africa, the director of international at the City and Guilds Group, Mike Dawe, cites vocational training as one of the essential cogs in the economic machine of the country.

“Vocational education can help fill skills gap, boost productivity, enhance industries employment, all of which have a significant impact on individuals, businesses and the economy as a whole,” says Dawe.

Indeed, Vocational Education Training (VET) is essential to keep the wheels of enterprise turning. Also known as Career and Technical Education (CTE) or Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), this type of skills development training sets out to develop both the skills and knowledge required to do a particular job within a specific profession, craft or trade. Within the realm of formal education, many public or private TVET colleges and technical universities offer national qualifications – as opposed to other ways in which a person can acquire vocational training, including apprenticeships or on-the-job training.

Vocational training differs from other tertiary qualifications (those offered at universities, for example) in the sense that the focus falls on preparing students for their chosen profession or trade by equipping them with the skills and theoretical knowledge needed to perform the day-to-day duties associated with their trade or profession. Here, the focus is primarily on real skills, although these are still grounded with theoretical industry-related knowledge.

Vocational education for careers in the technical or practical fields contribute greatly to addressing the skills shortage in the country, as well as to reaching the National Development Goals for employment. By creating a workforce that is capable of supporting inclusive growth of the economy and the many sectors that it is made up of, vocational training is imperative to initiating economic growth and providing employment opportunities in a country where skills are valued and scarce.

A 2016 report on VET in South Africa, India, the US and the UK, compiled by the City and Guilds Group, found that 36% of the South African CEOs surveyed were extremely concerned about the availability of key skills. Compared to a global average of 17%, the opinions of local CEOs speak volumes about just how important vocational education training is to furthering the country’s economic and development goals.

To find out more about how the programmes offered at Sparrow FET College can further your career, contact us today.

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