The new Schools Improvement Initiative (SII) marked two red-letter occasions in quick succession this week - its official launch, and its series of seminars.
|Educating educators: Pam Gretschel, Liesl Peters and Assoc Prof Roshan Galvaan presented the SII's inaugural lecture on 29 May.
|Partnerships: Dr Jonathan Clark speaks to learners and partners at the SII's launch.
On 28 May, the initiative - established by vice-chancellor Dr Max Price to address a key national concern - hosted its formal launch at the Centre of Science & Technology (COSAT) in Khayelitsha. The school - named as one of the top 10 schools in the province based on its performance in the 2011 National Senior Certificate examinations - served as an ideal backdrop for the occasion, said SII director and former COSAT principal, Dr Jonathan Clark.
"The academic success of COSAT shines as a beacon of hope in Khayelitsha - there's so much good work here that can be shared with neighbouring schools," Clark said. "Through this initiative the university is committing itself to playing a more deliberate role in engaging practically, developmentally and critically with the challenges of schooling in this country."
Speakers at the launch were unanimous in their praise of the initiative. Donald Grant, provincial minister for education, hailed UCT for working alongside government to improve the country's struggling school system. Michael Benu, chairperson of the Khayelitsha Development, said that the SII could galvanise the passion that especially mathematics and physical sciences teaching requires.
Partnerships - with the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), schools and the Metropole East Education District (MEED), among others - will be at the heart of the SII, Price and Clark emphasised. "It is clear to us that improving schools and improving success rates and making a difference in education is a team effort," Price said.
"We are determined to explore a university-school partnership model which will allow us to contribute positively to long-term change in the community which goes far beyond the school and classroom," added Clark.
To pay testament to this, the UCT SII seminar series kicked off a day later with a talk by researchers from the Faculty of Health Sciences. Associate Professor Roshan Galvaan, Pam Gretschel, and Liesl Peters of the Division of Occupational Therapy spoke on the division's work with learners in schools.
Speaking at the seminar, deputy vice-chancellor Professor Crain Soudien said that with the launch of the SII, UCT has made a promise to the community of Khayelitsha, one that will build a road of mutual learning between the university and the community. Among those who attended were educators, principals and representatives from the private sector.
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