New maths lab to multiply opportunities for Combined School learners

Learners at the Sparrow Combined Technical Skills School now have access to state-of-the-art educational technology to help them further their mathematics skills. This is after the new Maths Laboratory at the school was officially opened on 27 February.














The new lab, built in partnership with PG Impact Partners Group Employee Foundation, will serve approximately 163 learners in levels 1 to 4, empowering them with maths skills and aiming to foster a love for the subject.

The ribbon was cut by Ms Reinette Nel, a loyal Sparrow supporter since 1996, and a member of the Sparrow Board of Trustees since 2010.

Academic Manager of the Sparrow Schools Educational Trust, Ms Alison Button, says the benefits of the Maths Laboratory stretch far beyond the mere promotion of mathematics.

This space, which will be dedicated exclusively to the subject of mathematics, and will house all the school’s maths equipment and materials, has been designed to be an immersive, open and comfortable environment, filled with light. The lab has been furnished with computers that will be used in teaching maths – a technological approach that speaks to the learners of today.

Sparrow believes in empowering our learners with STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills, as we understand that these skills are already becoming a greater requirement and will increasingly be utilised in all workplaces in the future. It is wonderful to be able to integrate two of these skills in a way that will be both beneficial and enjoyable to our learners.














We are thankful for PG Impact Partners Group Employee Foundation’s support in this endeavour and are excited about how these additions will further allow the learners at Sparrow Combined Technical Skills School to equip themselves with valuable knowledge and expertise, as they continue on their paths to career readiness and success.


SAGE Net volunteers help Sparrow scale to new heights

Sparrow Schools ascribes a lot of the success the school has had over the past few decades to healthy relationships with a range of other organisations that share our educational vision. We know that taking hands in solidarity is the best way for the future, and in this regard, we are happy to have two international volunteers in our midst.

Nadin Chreiteh and Kendra Hons, both German volunteers with the South African German Network (SAGE Net), arrived at Sparrow in September of last year. They have been supporting teachers at Sparrow Foundation School, whilst also taking charge of operations at the school’s Media Centre and a newly started extramural theatre club. They will be in South Africa until September 2020.


























In the Media Centre, Nadin and Kendra have taught learners about healthy eating habits and global warming, among others, and they are excited about the advantages movement and performance art might have for Sparrow learners.

Although lamenting the social ills and inequality that still plague South Africa, Hons and Chreiteh say they stand in awe of the sheer resilience of the learners at Sparrow Foundation School, who show incredible enthusiasm, eagerness and motivation to learn despite the challenges they face. Both also admired the close-knit relationship between educators, staff and learners at Sparrow, and praised the fact that every learner at the school is important.

Aside from assisting at Sparrow, Nadin and Kendra have also had a chance to experience the natural beauty that South Africa has to offer – a Christmas trip to the Garden Route and Knysna with other SAGE Net volunteers stood out in particular.

While Nadin plans to travel more once her time at Sparrow comes to a close, Kendra is now considering pursuing educational studies upon her arrival back in Germany.

As always, Sparrow is proud and grateful to host international volunteers at our school, and we are excited to see how the rest of our SAGE Net volunteers’ stay turns out.


Hollard Teddybears’ Picnic delights and empowers Sparrow learners

So much of what we are able to do at Sparrow is due to fruitful relationships with corporate partners. One such treasured association is our connection with Hollard Insurance. The company is involved in a range of annual initiatives at Sparrow, including the Board Game event with Sparrow’s grade 5s in September, and our grade 7s’ Christmas Party and Farewell in November.














The year always kicks off with the popular Hollard Teddy Bears’ Picnic. This fun event for the grade 2s was held at the Foundation School on 12 February this year. After welcoming Hollard’s volunteers with a song, learners received lunch, something to drink, some sweets and a teddy bear.

The volunteers from Hollard (CSI Project Manager, Lynnette van Vreden, Consumer Education Specialist, Reuben Oosthuysen, René Sinclair and Octavia Nakhaphelo) actively partook in the day, reading the Hollard InstaStory Book that learners received with them. This initiative, in partnership with Kago Ya Bana, aims to create more opportunities for children to read by creating original books using Instagram stories. Later, everyone engaged in a few exciting rounds of egg race, sack race and a few other games.

Sparrow’s CSI Events and Fundraising Coordinator, Lois Grobbelaar, relayed her gratitude to the entire team at Hollard Insurance.

“Thank you so much for the fabulous Teddy Bears’ Picnic. Our children had an absolute ball and you all made the afternoon a huge success,” said Grobbelaar.














We are so thankful for our decade-long relationship with Hollard Insurance. Hollard has also had a hand in upgrading the Foundation School boys’ and girls’ bathrooms in 2018 and pledged R60 000 to revamp bathrooms at the Sparrow Combined Technical Skills School later this year. Our earnest thanks go to this company, which has and continues to contribute to our operations in fundamental ways.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.