Home environments

WE ARE MAKING renewed efforts to address those factors outside our school gates which affect our educational efforts and undermine the potential of our children. Key among these is the disabling home environments of many children in our catchment area.

Like those in rural areas elsewhere, many local households display various levels of poverty and deprivation. Many of our children suffer from Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorders (FASD) or are traumatised by alcohol-induced violence in their homes, resulting in a tragic waste of human potential. We have realised we need to find new ways of breaking through this self-perpetuating legacy.

As in many other deprived rural areas, many farm workers have low levels of self-esteem. We are engaging with the community to find ways of giving them a new sense of self-worth which will enable them to function as more responsible workers and parents, thus enhancing the educational prospects and therefore the life chances of their children.

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Pastoral psychologist Erica van Lingen with learners at a TLC camp, Poplar Grove Farm.

We have intensified our efforts to raise awareness of FASD, and address its damaging effects on children. FASD now forms part of the Life Orientation curriculum for Grade 6–9 learners. FASD field workers visit farm workers in their homes and also stage community workshops where both men and women are alerted to the dangers of alcohol abuse by pregnant women.

Learners displaying FASD attend special intervention classes where they receive intensive individual attention from trainers utilising specialised techniques and are allowed to develop at their own pace. They are eventually steered towards our youth development programme which is aimed at giving them the skills they need to enter into employment and become responsible adults.

We also manage a programme of support for learners with emotional difficulties mainly comprising ‘TLC camps’ or weekend retreats at a farm in the district with suitable guest and conference facilities. Learners are counselled by a qualified psychologist, and receive other forms of support and therapy.

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Learners attending a TLC camp with facilitators after a therapeutic drumming session at Poplar Grove Farm.

The pastoral psychologist, Erica van Lingen, has written a report with recommendations to teachers and other Trust staff, which we are implementing. Our generous donor community supports these efforts.