Work in Progress - Durban Story

Sam and Isabel Moss received a teaching bursary from the ERT to enable them to spend a year teaching at St James, Durban - the newest member of the St James worldwide family. Here is Sam's account of the first months in ST James's life.

Sitting amidst the beautiful surroundings of Cape Town on our winter holiday, it seems a good vantage point from which to survey the first half-year of St James Junior School in Durban. It has been a rapid and energetic beginning and this fledgling venture is really beginning to take flight.

Those seventeen nervous young faces who sat cross-legged and swathed in their new uniform for their first assembly have become a close-knit group of scholars. Their three teachers, equally nervous on that first morning, have gained in confidence, experience and knowledge, and enjoy the love and trust of their young wards. After two terms, Isabel and I can finally say that we have some understanding of the South African curriculum with its myriad learning outcomes and assessment standards.

The absence of teaching and learning content within this curriculum has posed quite a challenge. The task of developing our own syllabus, creating our own lessons more-or-less from scratch, has been an arduous one. Anisha’s (Anisha Ramlaul, founding headmistress, ed.) discipline and dedication have held everything together and kept it on track. The children have enjoyed a nature walk, an outing to a farm, a visual feast at the IMAX cinema and Saturday morning soccer and hockey tournaments. However, the really exciting stuff is taking place in the classrooms, where learning and understanding expand daily.

Many hurdles have been faced and overcome. A national strike and nationwide pressure for schools to close resulted in St James closing to its pupils for one day last term (many other schools were closed for weeks). Sam’s laptop was stolen from the school. Our secretary, Sally Quinlan, moved to be with her husband in Johannesburg and Nishani Rampersadh joined us in her place four weeks before the end of the 2nd term.

Eco-school project
Yet, despite these things, the school has continued to run smoothly and education has continued unimpeded. We have some interesting projects on the go. St James is a registered eco-school, committed to functioning in an ecologically friendly manner and raising awareness of the environment. To this end we have been collecting paper for recycling, in which the children have also been able to participate. We also hope to improve the garden spaces, replacing exotic plants with indigenous ones, and beautifying the exterior for the benefit of all who use the school premises.

The school library and sourcing of sports equipment are on-going projects. Enrolments for 2008 are going well after a successful introductory evening and new staff are being sought – Isabel and I will return home to the UK at the end of the school year.

Thirteen years after the end of apartheid, South Africa still faces many challenges to its development. St James stands for all that will lead this country forward: children who identify each other simply as fellow human beings, as friends and not according to skin colour; children who learn to do that which is true and good in all situations. Where truth is heeded, progress will surely follow.

Donors for Durban
Anisha’s inspiring new school has already attracted generous gifts, from a heroic sponsored cycle ride by ERT Friend Stephen Johnson to a growing number sponsoring pupils. In January we received a magnificent endowment for school bursaries. If you would like to help, contact Hugh Venables on 020 7727 8611 or