It’s the school’s duty to teach children how to be responsible citizens! Take UCS, situated in the heart of Yeoville, in inner-city Johannesburg. This primary and high school epitomises the word “responsibility”, which could be why it is a place of learning to be reckoned with. It stands out proudly in its community, a beacon of hope where young minds can learn in a safe environment without distractions.
Owning a culture of responsibility begins with the school itself. UCS is a longstanding member of ISASA (Independent Schools Association of South Africa) which automatically accredits the school with the IQAA (Independent Quality Assurance Agency). Recently, UCS received two quality assurance inspections by Umalusi (Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training) and it met the standards. In fact, it exceeded many. “Umalusi represents the government and IQAA represents ISASA. Both are designed to ensure that independent schools are run according to a particular standard of quality,” says UCS principal Helenne Ulster.
To instil a sense of responsibility in the UCS learners, the school organises days when the children clean up their school as well as their community. “These kids live in a rough neighbourhood. There are no bins which means plenty of litter in the streets and on the sidewalks. They also get very little encouragement from home regarding the importance of keeping their environment clean,” Helenne says.
Yet, when the learners are asked to spend a day cleaning up their inner-city community, they feel a sense of pride doing it. It gives them a sense of belonging and of empowerment being able to take control of the litter problem while making their neighbourhood look good.
One of the most anticipated events at the school is Principal’s Day when Helenne hosts a workshop for the matric students and successful ex-learners give motivational talks. The aim of the workshop is to prepare the matrics for the challenges that lie ahead, once they leave the safety net of UCS. In large part, Helenne and her guest speakers promote accountability and responsibility because they form a fundamental part of the way in which the learners conduct themselves in the adult world.
Finally, UCS is responsible for the wellbeing of some 500 primary and high school learners. This is one of the main reasons the school is participating in a Safety and Security initiative developed by Sacred Heart school with full participation from the JDA (Johannesburg Development Agency). “We want our children to feel safe and nurtured in the school environment as well as when they step outside our gates because educating them to become successful people means ensuring their welfare is taken care of holistically,” Helenne explains.
Once children learn to become responsible by learning from responsible adults they soon gain two of the most vital things to help them become confident human beings: self-respect and respect for others. These are qualities UCS sees in its learners each and every day as they begin to embrace the culture of responsibility at the school.