An organisation is paving the way to create positive dialogues at schools.
The Step Up programme, run through NPO Bottom Up, aims to create a space for pupils to talk, be heard, have dialogue with one another and to come up with solutions.
Bottom Up runs various programmes at schools including Lotus, Fairmount, Grassdale and Zeekoevlei high schools and Parkwood and Perivale primary schools.
Pupil-led groups, called the Action Resource Committees (ARC), were formed to deal with factors relating to student drop-outs.
They also provide training to the Representative Council of Learners (RCL) to ensure that committees that represent pupils’ interests and promote democratic decision making in schools are functional.
Step Up offers a support group for pupils who are frequently absent from school and a breakfast club.
Facilitator Lindsey Davids said the Step Up programme is not restricted to pupils.
“We also work with teachers and parents and we’re hoping this will bring about positive change in the schools,” she said.
Dean George, also a facilitator, said the project was rolled out last year and includes Grade 8s and 9s but is open to other grades. He said the programme teaches pupils about individual choices, about structures, the injustices that they face and how to change their circumstances more positively.
“We are looking at how they can be the change that they want to see in the school. We empower this group of learners to be the change and then they take on the issues pupils face every day. Lotus High has issues with school drop-outs. There are thousands of reason this happens but at Lotus High more specific it is the school’s image.
“Lotus High is not seen as a very good school or it’s not the first choice for people. So at the moment those who are participating (in the programme) are trying to change that stigma and change the narrative about the school to be more positive. Everything that is being said is mostly negative; we are in the process of trying to change that,” said Mr George.
School principal Benjamin Pietersen said it is a great initiative.
“Schools are tied down in terms of resources and this is a true blessing because there is such a lot of good that comes from the programme. We are empowering the kids with skills which they can’t extract from normal classes. I am excited where this will take those who are partaking in the programme and I hope more will join,” said Mr Benjamin.
He agreed that there is a negative stigma in the community about Lotus High.
“There’s a negative perception of the school and it will take a while to change that. (That is the) the essence of what we are doing and the impact of what
we are trying to achieve. With the help of Bottom Up and other organisations, we can change the stigma,” said Mr Pietersen.