We are a group of young people who all did a voluntary service via the „Freunde der Erziehungskunst Rudolf Steiners“ in one of Cape Towns townships for a year starting in 2009. Through the voluntary service we had the possibility to experience daily life and daily routines in numerous Waldorf Kindergardens and a small Waldorf school, Zenzeleni Waldorf School, throughout Cape Town´s townships. The personal attachment especially to the Zenzeleni School and its people is the reason for our engagement.
School attendance is compulsary in South Africa. The governmental schools are free of charge. However, they tend to be so overcrowded that the individual students can hardly get the dedication and care they need. On top of that violence and oppression are an everyday issue.
Zenzeleni Waldrof School is, in our experience, astonishingly different from that. By means of smaller groups and approaching the children with love, dedication and respect, a harmonious and safe environment is created in which the children can feel free and grow accordingly to their needs.
In Educare Centres, in the school and when meething people from the townships we experienced the grave existential needs of many families. That was the reason why we feld an urge to organise financial support to enable children to attend Zenzeleni Waldorf School.
At the same time relatives from Germany contacted us to find out if there was something like a sponsorship
programme providing a 100% donation for school attendace for these children. All this together initiated the idea of starting our own project, in close cooperation with the Friends of Waldorf Education.
Since then we want to help children find a way for a better future through education.
Both the Educare Centres and the Zenzeleni School base their education on the principles and ideas of Steiner education.
Steiner´s idea of education is built around the needs of the development of children andand enables the child to a widespread development. The guiding characteristics for this are imagination, curiosity for the world, and a self-dependent way of thinking. Above that children get to explore ways to find and develop their individual attributes and abilities.
What we noticed is that practicing the Waldorf philosophy in the townships can help the children find values and ways of thinking that can make their lives easier and supply a good foundation for finding a way out of poverty and dependence.
Like many Waldorf Schools outside of Europe, the Zenzeleni School does not receive enough governmental support and therefore has to find a way of financing itself by charging school fees. Although the fees are kept as low as possible it still leaves most families with a huge financial challenge. For many of them money is so short that they can hardly afford their daily food and shelter. Proper medical equipment or a profound education often appears to be a distant dream.
And this is exactly where we want to get involved with our project.
Our Project Name "AbantwanaCare" ("Abantwana" means children in isiXhosa) indicates the basic idea of our project.
What we call a „voucher for education“ shall enable children from the Township kindergartens, which we worked in, to attend Zenzeleni School together with their friends in order to continue learning in the special atmosphere of Waldorf education. Many of the Educare Centres, however, are quite far away from the school, as a result of which parents have to pay high transport fees in addition to the school fees. This comprises an almost impossible financial challenge for most of them.
In the case of parents not being able to come up for the fees anymore, we established sponsorships to assure the children’s attendance at school. The donations for this sponsorship programme are send to th school via a special account by our collaborting organisation the Friends of Waldorf Education. We can assure that 100% of the donated money finds its way to Zenzeleni school to support the teachers, parents and children.
Donation receipts can be given out by the Friends of Waldorf Education.
The initial aim of our project was to give away individual sponsorships, as is the most common and easy way of sponsoring. Unfortunately, this resulted in many conflicts at Zenzeleni school: Parents without sponsors felt neglected and some with a lot of support turned passive. So we had to face certain questions: Who decides which child is to be supported? Can this decision be a fair one at all?
For this reason, we wanted to get away from “individual sponsorships” and instead embrace a form of “educational sponsorships”. Meaning that the whole school should benefit from the donations and only teachers should be allowed to decide whether a child urgently needs individual support, for instance in terms of transport fees. This gives our work more flexibility and leaves some room to tend to the ever changing circumstances and needs of the school and its students. Above that, we can ensure that the money is being put into action where it is needed most: into good education.
We consider it highly important to be able to exactly track all donations, which is what we owe our donors after all. For this reason Helen Stotko, the manager of the Centre for Creative Education, who at the same time happens to be one of the founders of Zenzeleni School, provides us with a regular financial report.
There have been many obstacles we have had to face since founding AbantwanaCare in December 2010. But every problem however has helped us to progress and improve AbantwanaCare.