Sparrow FET success story: Tshepo Mbeazi

Sparrow FET success story: Tshepo Mbeazi

“Sparrow changed my life,” says 25-year-old Sparrow graduate and chef, Tshepo Mbeazi. We were lucky enough to sit down with this aspiring young restaurateur while he was in South Africa on a two-month break, after working on a cruise ship for the past few months.

Tshepo graduated from Sparrow FET College with a Professional Cookery Learnership in 2017, after completing his studies on a Nedbank and Wilmar Fats and Oils-sponsored bursary.

Mastering the craft of cooking seems like it came naturally to Tshepo, who did his practical training at the Sandton Sun Hotel after attaining his NQF Level 4 qualification from Sparrow FET College. Here, Tshepo didn’t rest on his laurels, entering the Chef of the Year competition as a junior chef at the Sandton Sun Hotel. Tshepo was named one of the top 6 finalists in Gauteng, and this taste of success inspired him to apply for a chef position on the cruise ship Norwegian Gateway.

On the ship, Tshepo, along with the other chefs on the ship, was tasked with taking care of the culinary needs of between 4,000 and 5,000 passengers. The Norwegian Gateway started its journey across the ocean in Miami in the US, heading towards Europe, where Tshepo was able to visit Spain, Italy and Greece. Tshepo admits the hours were long but maintains it was all worth it, saying it was “amazing to travel the world”.

Tshepo plans to travel for five more years before returning to his homeland to open a fine dining restaurant of his own – he plans to simply call it FINE.

Loving what you do is paramount for Tshepo, who says, “you must have a passion and love for what you’re going to do”, before deciding on a career. However, Tshepo believes that passion alone is not enough.

“Anything is possible when you believe in yourself and work hard,” says this proud product of Sparrow FET College, adding, “Attitude is the most important quality to achieve success”.

Tshepo, we delight in your continued success, and are excited about what the future holds. With your insatiable appetite for triumph, we are already smacking our lips in anticipation of our first dining experience at FINE.



Sparrow 30 Years: We sit down with founder, Jackie Gallagher

Sparrow 30 Years: We sit down with founder, Jackie Gallagher

In August this year, Sparrow Schools celebrated 30 years of educational excellence. Initially a Saturday School with only four learners, Sparrow is proud of what has been achieved over the past three decades, and excited about what is still to come.

Sparrow’s founder, Jackie Gallagher, is a force of nature in her own right, and has seen Sparrow blossom into the bastion it is today. She kindly answered a few questions, and shared her vision for the future of Sparrow Schools.

1. What were your hopes for Sparrow when you founded the school, and do you think you’ve achieved these aspirations?

When I started the Saturday School, my main aim and hope was to assist children to have access to quality education – I wanted to build a bridge out of the old apartheid system of schooling into an education system that would meet the needs of the neglected child. I feel that my aspirations have been met in ways I never dreamed possible.

2. What are your hopes for the future for Sparrow Schools?

That we would continue to meet the educational needs of the neglected child.

3. What has been the greatest moment you’ve experienced at Sparrow over the past 30 years?

Without a doubt, meeting Nelson Mandela when he visited Sparrow Schools – I was blown away by the greatness and humbleness of him.

4. Are there any learners that stand out in your memory, and why?

So many, and all in different ways. From the child who has achieved on the sports field, to the child who has learnt to read and, of course, all our FET candidates that were previously unemployed who are now employed. However, I must mention Natacia Luthuli, who studied Early Childhood Development, and her incredible passion and enthusiasm for education. She is opening up her second ECD centre in 2020 in Cosmos City – she inspires me!

5. What is the best advice you’d give to Sparrow learners when they embark on their own life journeys after school?

Do the best you can, grab hold of every opportunity given to you, and strive to achieve.


Spring clean and donate unwanted goods to help educate a Sparrow child

Spring clean and donate unwanted goods to help educate a Sparrow child

Spring is in the air, and the time for the season’s customary cleaning routine has arrived with it. This year, we’d like to encourage everyone to put the unwanted goods they decide to get rid of to good use – and donate towards the education of a Sparrow learner while you’re at it.

In this regard, Sparrow has teamed up with Simeon Seara Dube, a Soweto-based jumble shop owner and the father of two learners at Sparrow Foundation School. Operating from a pop-up shop-based set-up, Mr Dube has been able to settle the school fees of his own two children, as well as using the earnings from donated goods to keep an additional four learners in school as well.

Interested parties can drop off unwanted goods at Sparrow Foundation School, from where they will be collected for sale at Mr Dube’s jumble shop in Soweto.

Does the prospect of spring-cleaning seem a little daunting? Why not use the six basic rules of tidying, according to the organising consultant and eponymous star of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo?

1. Commit to tidying up

Marie Kondo’s KonMari Method requires dedication, time and effort. Once you’ve decided to tidy up, follow through.

2. Imagine what you’re ideal lifestyle would be like

Imagine the type of house you’d like to live in, and envision how it would be set up, organised and decorated.

3. Start discarding first

Don’t try to find space for items that should really be discarded. Starting with discarding frees up space that can be put to better use.

4. Don’t tidy by room, tidy by category

Imagine, for example, you are tidying up your closet. Instead of going from room to room and tidying the closets, start by gathering all your clothes in a single location where you can objectively assess how much you have and what needs to go.

5. Tidy in the correct order

Marie Kondo recommends that we follow a certain order while tidying – this helps you to learn how to decide what items to keep, based on whether they “spark joy”, or not. The order you should tidy in, according to the KonMari Method, is clothes > books > papers > miscellaneous items (komono) > sentimental items. The reasoning behind this order is that it’s easier to learn what clothing items to keep, for example, than it is to decide what sentimental items to get rid of. Tidying in this order is also sure to save time.

6. Does it ‘spark joy’?

Marie Kondo recommends that we decide what stays and what goes by deciding whether it sparks joy in us. We can do this by holding the item firmly in both hands. If it sparks joy, says Kondo, you should feel a little thrill, whereas items that don’t spark joy will leave you feeling heavy. If an item does not spark joy, it should be discarded, but not before expressing gratitude for its service.

Whether you use the KonMari Method, or your own, tried-and-trusted tidying shortcuts, please don’t forget to donate anything you aren’t using anymore towards our jumble collection. You’re not just tidying up your space – you’re also building the future of our nation.


16 Days of Activism against GBV: here’s what you can do

16 Days of Activism against GBV: here’s what you can do

16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is marked every year to draw the attention to this important social issue, and will be held from 25 November to 10 December 2019.

All over the world, 16 Days will kick off on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and will this year be held under the global theme, “Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands against Rape”.

At home, the objectives of the 16 Days Campaign are to:

– Attract all South Africans to be active participants in the fight to eradicate violence against women and children.
– Expand accountability beyond the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster to include all government clusters and provinces.
– Combine technology, social media, the arts, journalism, religion, culture and customs, business and activism to draw attention to the many ways violence against women and children affects the lives of all people in all communities around the world.
– Ensure mass mobilisation of all communities to promote collective responsibility in the fight to eradicate violence against women and children.
– Encourage society to acknowledge that violence against women and children is NOT a government or criminal justice system problem, but a societal problem, and that failure to view it as such results in all efforts failing to eradicate this scourge in our communities.
– Emphasise the fact that the solution lies with all of us.

Violence against women and children may take many forms, and can include physical violence (domestic violence and violent crime like assault, rape, robbery and murder), emotional violence, together with the poverty, humiliation, starvation and degradation that many women and children in our country face every day.

If you’re wondering how you can make a contribution to combating these problems in South Africa, you can assist in various ways:

– By wearing a red ribbon for the duration of the 16 days, to show your support and symbolise your commitment to never commit or condone violence against women or children.
– By volunteering your time or showing financial support to NGOs and community groups that support abused women or children.
– By speaking out against the abuse of women and children, and making your concern known by spreading the message on social media.
– By encouraging survivors to talk about their abuse, and helping them to find help.
– By encouraging children to report bullying at school.
– By reporting child abuse to the police.

Sparrow FET College is committed to the fight against gender-based violence, and believes that it will take all our efforts to root out this systemic societal problem completely. Join us in marking this issue from 25 November to 10 December 2019.


5 TED talks that will inspire you before an interview

Brittany Packnett : How to build your confidence – and spark it in others

What TED says: “Confidence is the necessary spark before everything that follows,” says educator and activist Brittany Packnett. In an inspiring talk, she shares three ways to crack the code of confidence – and her dream for a world where revolutionary confidence helps turn our most ambitious dreams into reality.

It is possible to unlock confidence, even when we seem to have lost the key. This inspirational talk by Brittany Packnett will teach you how.

Amy Cuddy: Your body language may shape who you are

What TED says: Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy argues that “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident – can boost feelings of confidence, and might have an impact on our chances for success.

The secrets of body language aren’t really secrets at all in this insightful talk by Amy Cuddy.

Regina Hartley: Why the best hire may not have the perfect resume

What TED says: Given the choice between a job candidate with a perfect resume and one who has fought through difficulty, human resources executive Regina Hartley always gives the “Scrapper” a chance. As someone who grew up with adversity, Hartley knows that those who flourish in the darkest of spaces are empowered with the grit to persist in an ever-changing workplace. “Choose the underestimated contender, whose secret weapons are passion and purpose,” she says. “Hire the Scrapper.”

Yes, you will be vying for a position among many other people, but what makes you stand out? Is it genuine passion?

Julian Treasure: How to speak so that people want to listen

What TED says: Have you ever felt like you’re talking, but nobody is listening? Here’s Julian Treasure to help. In this useful talk, the sound expert demonstrates the how-to’s of powerful speaking – from some handy vocal exercises to tips on how to speak with empathy. A talk that might help the world sound more beautiful.

It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it, according to the adage. Julian Treasure gives some helpful tips.

Daniel Levitin: How to stay calm when you know you’ll be stressed

What TED says: You’re not at your best when you’re stressed. In fact, your brain has evolved over millennia to release cortisol in stressful situations, inhibiting rational, logical thinking but potentially helping you survive, say, being attacked by a lion. Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin thinks there’s a way to avoid making critical mistakes in stressful situations, when your thinking becomes clouded – the pre-mortem. “We all are going to fail now and then,” he says. “The idea is to think ahead to what those failures might be.”

Don’t let stress get the better of you the next time you go for an interview. Daniel Leveiting has guidelines.


10 quotes about learning to inspire teachers and learners alike

10 quotes about learning to inspire teachers and learners alike

A lot has been said about the value education adds to our lives, and many great men and women have left us morsels of knowledge that can inspire us to aspire to more.

Here are 10 great quotes about education and learning that will probably always resonate with educators and learners.

1. The impact of good educators

2. How education pays it forward for years to come

3. Learning is the best way to prepare for whatever tomorrow may bring

4. Learning empowers and changes things

5. The value of experiential learning

6. Never stop learning

7. Thinking and learning go hand in hand

8. Never be afraid to ask

9. Great things are always within reach!

10. Lifelong learners are always growing


The Link Literacy Project is empowering kids through reading

The Link Literacy Project is empowering kids through reading

Considered a cornerstone of basic education, reading is a key skill that learners should have mastered by grade 2 and 3. When they reach grade 4, the focus moves from reading to recognise to reading to understand, and learners should be able to read and analyse texts independently when they are about 10 years old.

Of course, reading doesn’t come easily to all children, and remedial programmes are very often incorporated in order to foster reading skills where they are lacking.

Sparrow Foundation School is lucky to be able to utilise the services of The Link’s Literacy Project. This non-profit organisation is focused on developing literacy and numeracy in children for whom English is a second language, who are attending low-income schools in Johannesburg. Founded by educator Margi Bashall in 2010, and inspired by The Shine Centre, which runs a similar literacy programme in Australia, volunteers are the key driving force behind The Link Literacy Project.

Each week, more than 600 trained and committed volunteers work with children in grade 2 and 3 in 19 Link Centres operating at schools in and around Johannesburg, reaching more than 1,100 children.

The Link has permission to operate during school hours and is recognised by the Gauteng Educational Authorities, and learners who are at risk of not reaching their full potential and who may benefit from The Link Literacy Project are identified by means of valid testing.

The Link Literacy Project is in dire need of volunteers to continue the important work they are doing for children whose parents or guardians do not have the means to enrol them in formal after-school remedial programmes. To volunteer for The Link, people need no prior training or teaching experience (basic training and all resources are provided), but do need to be fluent in English, as this is the second and perhaps even third language of the learners they will be assisting.

To get involved and become a volunteer of The Link Literacy Project, simply click here.


How Catrobatkidz is helping Sparrow learners reach their full potential

How Catrobatkidz is helping Sparrow learners reach their full potential

aAll educators know that academic performance is very closely tied to physical coordination and development. Gross motor skills are the building blocks of both physical and academic performance, and being able to control one’s body and movements holds benefits for learners in a number of academic endeavours.

For example, did you know that a sense of rhythm is beneficial to developing the reading skills of learners, or that physical prowess helps to aid self-discipline and self-confidence in learners?

The Catrobatkidz extracurricular programme, which is also available to the learners at Sparrow Foundation School, has been assisting learners in developing their body awareness, balance, locomotion, gross and fine motor skills, spatial relationships, rhythm and timing, strength, flexibility, and coordination since 2001, and currently have a number of branches in operation all across South Africa.

The programme focuses on creating movement experiences which develops these key skills in learners, and have the power to:

• Build confidence in learners
• Prevent low muscle tone
• Improve brain integration
• Encourage a healthy lifestyle
• Promote a love for exercise
• Provide preparation skills for most sports

A healthy body is home to a healthy mind, goes the saying, and Sparrow is happy to say that our educators are already seeing the results of the Sparrow Catrobatkidz programme in the classroom.

Many of our learners come from difficult economic circumstances, and a number of kids live on a nearby rubbish dump, without access to educational stimulation at home. Extracurricular programmes like Catrobatkidz are especially useful to these learners, who often exhibit difficulties with concentration, gross and fine motor skills, and reading and writing.

The improvement Sparrow educators have noticed in learners with these issues has been truly remarkable, and has once again reinforced the Sparrow philosophy of using holistic teaching methods to promote to whole-child development



The importance of literacy in the tech age

The importance of literacy in the tech age

Even as technology pervades almost every sphere of our lives, literacy has not lost its value in the 21st century. Considered one of the building blocks of scholastic and career success, being able to read and write is still a core skill that learners need to master in order to lay a solid educational foundation for the future.

According to the International Literacy Association, literacy can be defined as “the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, compute, and communicate using visual, audible, and digital materials across disciplines and in any context”.

The literacy outreach education programme, Every Child Ready to Read, sets out six pre-reading skills for children from birth to five years.

• Print motivation: How interested and excited children are about books.
• Print awareness: Knowing how to hold a book and how to follow words on a page.
• Phonological awareness: The understanding that words consist of smaller sounds.
• Vocabulary: Knowing the names of feelings, concepts, ideas and things, and being able to connect the words to real life.
• Narrative skills: The ability to describe things and events, and tell and understand stories.
• Letter knowledge: The awareness that each letter is different and has a unique name and sound.

In the modern age, new concepts like digital literacy (“the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills”, according to the American Library Association) and culturally relevant literacy are gaining ground alongside traditional thoughts about literacy, but the enduring benefits of basic literacy still hold true.

At Sparrow, we place a high premium on ensuring that all our learners are functionally literate, and the Link Literacy Project is just one initiative that aids this endeavour.

By developing literacy and numeracy in children for whom English is a second language, this project promotes literacy and assists learners with reading difficulties at 19 Link Centres in and around Johannesburg.

Because we know that reading and writing is essential to the future of our learners, even in an age where tech reigns supreme, we will always value the old-fashioned pleasure of reading, and we pride ourselves on passing this love for books on to every learner at Sparrow.


The benefits of occupational therapy

The benefits of occupational therapy

As a part of Sparrow’s dedication to the growth mindset in our educational approach, we believe in the benefits of occupational therapy for learners who struggle with balance, coordination and motor skills. All these skills help children to complete everyday tasks, improving the way they learn and function at school.

Occupational therapy at a glance

With a focus on improving fine and gross motor skills, motor planning, coordination, organisation and self-regulation in learners who may have issues like these, occupational therapy utilises activities and exercises to build skills that are weaker.

Occupational therapy’s benefits are even greater when started early, not least because the ability to complete basic tasks helps to foster confidence and build self-esteem in learners, too.

As such, occupational therapy is not just a type of physical therapy – although the exercises employed by occupational therapists are often of a physical nature, in order to improve motor and other skills – but rather, OT becomes a body-and-mind therapy which also knowledge about psychosocial development and disorders.

Who can benefit from OT?

Learners who struggle with a range of issues or skills related to their learning might benefit from receiving occupational therapy.

Visual processing issues, dyslexia, executive functioning issues, sensory processing issues, problems with focus, and organisational issues can all be addressed by focused occupational therapy.

The benefits of occupational therapy also extend to the classroom as a whole. Learning comes more easily when basic tasks can be easily completed and the attention is focused. Using this approach, classroom peers are also able to focus on learning more, and educators are able to teach more easily.

All in all, occupational therapy is highly beneficial to the learners who receive it, laying strong foundations for future learning, and allowing them to embark on a successful professional journey after school.