Welcome to Uplands Outreach
On a recent visit to one of Uplands Outreach’s partner schools outside White River, here in Mpumalanga, I was struck by a sense of time standing still. Driving along a dusty road, Violah and I entered through the iron gates of a bustling combined school (Grades 1 to 9) of over 1,100 learners. Built of solid red bricks, with a netball court on one side and a threadbare grass field on the other, the school brought back vivid memories of my own days as a primary school pupil, back in the 1970s. It was break time, around 10:00am, and talkative learners milled around in groups, seeking a sunny patch to eat neon-coloured snacks from the informal traders that pop up like mushrooms each day. Inside the school, teachers rushed to the photocopiers and to break-time meetings, trying to connect briefly with their colleagues, catch their breath, and prepare for the next lesson.
Day after day, year after year, these scenes play out in schools around the world. In Mpumalanga, Violah and I are constantly humbled and inspired by our partner teachers who toil under trying conditions in unpromising contexts. Teachers remain the life-blood of our schools, both at Uplands and in our partner schools – and so we’ve dedicated this edition of WINGS, our annual newsletter, to the spirit of teaching. Teaching is the largest profession in South Africa, with over 425,000 in-service teachers at work in our nation’s schools each day. Our youth and our future are in their hands. Research shows irrefutable evidence that the best way to improve school results - in both government and independent schools - is to support our teachers to be more effective, and to invest in carefully-designed professional development programmes. At Uplands Outreach, we work hard to enable school leaders to do just that. To read more about teacher effectiveness, click here.
All children should experience the joy of being in the hands of a great teacher. To illustrate, we’ve asked several Uplands stakeholders to pay tribute to their special teachers in this newsletter. What a difference they can make. Upon receiving his Nobel Prize in Literature in 1957, Albert Camus wrote to his teacher to thank him for the ‘affectionate hand’ he extended to Camus during his difficult childhood. Read his touching tribute here. If you’re moved by this edition, please take a few minutes to phone or email your favourite teacher and express your appreciation. Parents can also take time to thank their children’s teachers, with specific examples and positive feedback. Words of encouragement are like drops of gold, as educational expert Professor Philip Hallinger told us in person last year.
In closing, if you’d like to visit our partner schools with us to see (and support) these promising teachers in action, feel free to contact us and we can arrange a visit. In the meantime, thank you for supporting the work of Uplands Outreach. To paraphrase Camus’ tribute to his favourite teacher, we embrace our friends with our whole hearts!
Educational disparities have been the central focus of Uplands Outreach since our inception twenty years ago, thanks to the vision of the Uplands community. Recently, the Board of Directors at Uplands reconfirmed that Outreach is essential to the vision and mission of the school. As a top-performing independent school, Uplands is still committed to playing a significant, transformational role in the educational landscape for all of South Africa’s children. To read WINGS 2016, please click here.
I would like to express thanks and appreciation to everyone who has contributed to Uplands Outreach’s success over the years. With your support and interest, Outreach will work industriously to ‘raise achievement for all’ in rural Mpumalanga. If any of you wish to join Violah and me on our next winding journey over the granite hills, please don’t hesitate to be in touch.
Nicolette (Nicky) de Bruyn