Back to School
Formal education is a powerful symbol for all the girls at Ons Plek, since it represents to them, and to the community, a ‘real’ return to mainstream society. A suitable educational or vocational opportunity is a major factor in making it realistic for the children to leave street life behind. Most of the girls who remain at Ons Plek for longer periods of time will need to be their own primary or only breadwinner once they leave Ons Plek.
We return a girl to school when we are sure she is committed and ready. This increases the chances that she will sustain her schooling. Each girl who succeeds in turn provides a role model for others to persevere. The education staff consult closely with all other staff in the team in decisions re schooling. The observations and assessments by experienced child care workers with regard to the girl’s general ability and social involvement are essential in forming a complete picture of the girl’s ability to cope in school.
Schools the girls attend include mainstream primary and high schools, primary schools which still provide classes for learners with special needs, skills high schools, training centres for learners for special needs, and non-governmental schools and colleges with specific aims to reach street children, children at risk and job seekers who need vocational skills. We select the primary schools according to their proximity in terms of safe travel for the girls, who use public transport to go to school, as they would do when they live with their families. Other criteria in selecting a school is the possibility of the girl attending that school when she returns to her home community, the extent to which the school is focused on the needs of older learners, language diversity in the classroom, and special learning needs.
Drastic inequalities remain between schools in different areas and between schools offering instruction in different languages. Competence in English is useful in terms of surviving in the dominant culture. Schools with better resources often offer instruction only in English. However, basic education in a second or third language can add yet another barrier to learning for learners who are already experiencing a formidable range of other obstacles. Each decision about each child needs to be made with great care, and with consideration of long term implications.