The community of Windermere, in Kensington, has been through some trying times, affected by socio-economic challenges which have resulted in - among other things - a police presence at the local high school, Windermere High, where pupils are searched for weapons on a daily basis.
But despite all this, a ray of hope shines through. Three pupils have decided to succeed in the face of these and other challenges, and they are being aided in their quest by SHAWCO.
SHAWCO and Windermere High have a partnership that spans over 20 years. Initially Windermere High and Kensington High Schools were involved with after-school SHAWCO activities such as netball and art. Early in the 2000s UCT student Anwar Parker was part of a team who created the KenSTEP, So Live and Learn and KenSMART projects, which focused more on education, by offering extra lessons in Science, Mathematics, English and Life Skills.
The three pupils who are reaching new heights despite adversity are participants in SHAWCO's education project. Shamielah Reid (Grade 12), Lindani 'Theo' Luningo (Grade 11) and Aaliyah Agouhaar (Grade 9) saw major improvements in their results last year, after joining the SHAWCO programme.
"SHAWCO taught me maths and helped me understand what they were saying in class," says Agouhaar. "I can't wait to go back this year." Last year this quietly-spoken teen achieved four As and two Bs, and she hopes to improve on this. Reid says being part of the SHAWCO programme made a significant difference to her marks too. "SHAWCO helped me focus on areas where I was battling," she says. Luningo's marks have also improved, and he says attending SHAWCO's lessons is far better than studying alone. He wants to be a doctor when he leaves school, and is determined to stay in the programme until the end of Grade 12. Asked what facilities they would like to see at Windermere, all three agree that a bigger library is essential. They would also love to have a hall for assemblies, rather than having to stand outside in the hot sun.
Teacher Sadia Bester, who also acts as the link between SHAWCO and the school, says she is very grateful for the help her pupils are receiving. "There are lots of challenges at Windermere, but the hard work and commitment of the students involved in the SHAWCO programme is wonderful to see."
Headmaster Craig Leetz says when a school like Windermere is offered help by an organisation like SHAWCO, "we have to grasp it with both hands". He has been at the school only since the start of the year, but believes SHAWCO's contribution will have lasting benefits for the learners involved.
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