St Charles Lwanga education and training centre, situated in Orange Farm, a township in the south of Johannesburg, is an initiative to help students from a poverty-stricken area to stand up by themselves in life.
The Centre was established in 1994 by the Missionaries of Africa and Sr Josepha English. It is located behind the parish of St Charles Lwanga which is served by two Comboni priests, Fr Kifle Kintamo originally from Hawassa, Ethiopia, and Fr Kgomotso Sebopela from Mabopane, Pretoria.
The centre that has been absorbed by the Department of Higher Education (DHE) offers two curricula for skills and academic programmes. In terms of skills, it has seven levels which comprise numeracy, communication and other areas such as health care, English, maths, literacy, life orientation, small, medium and micro enterprises, early childhood development, and computer literacy.
The school is an Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) centre and currently has eighty students aged from 18 years to 50. Students, once they complete the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level four, receive a certificate for higher education and they can move up to grade 12. Others, having done Early Childhood Development, often open their own crèches, and later on, they continue studying to advance to higher levels.
Mr Joseph Moloi is one of the lecturers, teaching life skills, counselling and computer skills, and shares with us his knowledge about the school. He says that the skills programmes include baking and welding— both accredited by the State Information Technology Agency (SITA), as well as electrical training and carpentry. The school also offers courses in motor mechanics, bricklaying, sewing and fashion design, computer skills, counselling and life skills.
As a Non-Profit Organization (NPO), financially the school depends on the fees paid by the learners and other donations for the acquisition of machinery and new equipment. “We are busy with the necessary accreditations for our school; so far, we have accredited courses in computers, baking, welding, and merchandising. We are awaiting SITA accreditation for studies in wholesale and retail. Next year we will apply for accreditation in electrical studies and carpentry”, says Mr Moloi who has been working at the school for the past 21 years.
“Each course needs to meet certain standards before it can be accredited. Our lecturers need to be assessors before we accredit a certain course, which is another challenge. Gauteng Community Education Training College is divided into centres, and every centre has satellite centres and we are one of them. Though we are recognized for various skills by the DHE, we want to strengthen our certificates and qualifications. When learners come and do their skills, we want them to obtain the accreditations from the DHE and SITA”, says Moloi.
He explains that the academic and skills curricula have both theory and practical modules and at level four, the students are given the opportunity to learn how to manage a small business. “After four years in the school, we see progress in terms of human development in the learners. One of the areas we deal with is life skills, where we teach them about life in general and how to handle things. We have an impact on the learners’ behaviour through counselling” comments Moloi.
“In South Africa now, if people don’t find jobs, they must try to create them for themselves; that is why in this school we teach them how to build a company and the requirements for it. We teach learners how to be creative, to be an employer and how to treat employees, training them to be both employees and employers at the same time”, adds Moloi.
“This is a Catholic school, even though the lecturers have been hired by the DHE. There are certain occasions, such as Ash Wednesday when the students go to the parish and celebrate together” comments Moloi.
“The chairperson of the school board of governance is the parish priest, who is a Comboni missionary. The ethos and values of the school are those of the Church. The classes start with a prayer and when the learners and teachers come to the school for the first time, they receive an induction whereby they are told what is expected from them and told about the nature of the school and its rules and regulations”, concludes Moloi. Hopefully, schools such as St Charles Lwanga will develop in providing skills to help students in facing the challenges of a digital era.