As the first dedicated pre-school in the area, Ikhaya Labantwana Montessori (ILM) is committed to breaking the cycle of poverty, through education and early childhood development. After working on this project for 3 years, we opened our first school on the 15th of February 2010 – a 5m rondawel with a red and pink stripey door and eager children.
We are currently building a new centre in Jonga village close to Coffee Bay that will be prefect for 60 children aged 2½ – 5 years old, getting 2 classes and 2 healthy meals per day.
Objectives for the new Ikhaya Labantwana Montessori
- Provide these young children with a stimulating and safe early learning environment guided in both English and isiXhosa.
- Provide the children with two healthy meals per day from our own sustainable vegetable garden.
- Engage a Community Pre-school Motivator to mobilise other communities in the greater Coffee Bay area and motivate women to open pre-schools and vegetable gardens in their own villages. The target at present is 6 villages.
- Provide training, support, guidance and mentorship for these women and their teaching assistants, so that good quality pre-schools can be developed in the surrounding villages.
- Train three local teacher assistants at Ikhaya Labantwana in the Montessori Method,developing them into the roles of Directresses and Principal.
- Secure the Social Development grant of R15 per child, per day to ensure the sustainability of all the pre-schools in the cluster.
The Montessori Method helps children develop creativity, problem solving, critical thinking and time management skills, so that they can contribute to society and the environment. It helps children become fulfilled persons in their particular time and place on earth.
“The most important period of life is not the age of university studies, but the first period from birth to age six. For that is the time when man’s intelligence itself, his greatest implement, is being formed” – Maria Montessori
The story of the Ikhaya Labantwana Montessori Early Learning Centre
Our projects, all still ‘informal’ were going along very successfully in 2006, when I decided that I needed a change from the hospitality industry…… but I really wanted to stay in Coffee Bay. What to do? Teaching had always interested me, so I started looking at education and training needs in the area, and after my research, I came to the conclusion that NOTHING was being directed at the young children of the area, during their important foundation years. I researched Early Childhood Development programmes and decided that the Montessori Method would be THE most appropriate educational method for this nature rich, financially poor, rural area. I went underground in 2007 and 2008 and studied and worked the Montessori Method. I passed with a distinction and returned to Coffee Bay in December 2008, ready to share the education that the privileged children in the city have, with the rural children of Coffee Bay.
Our mission is to build a Montessori Early Learning Centre, called “Ikhaya Labantwana” – House of the children, in Coffee Bay. It will accommodate 75 children, aged 2 and a half to 6 years old from the area, from 08h00 to 13h00 daily and each child will have breakfast, snack and lunch at school. There will be three classes with 25 children each, and every class will be directed by a qualified Montessori Directress and a local Xhosa speaking Assistant.
After having a meeting with the Chief of the Tshezi tribe and various meetings with our headman, we have nearly secured a ‘siza’ (piece of land) in the Ghini village, for the Early Learning Centre. Once we have secured the land, we would like to raise funds to build the following on the land:
- 3 “longdawels”
- 1 kitchen
- 1 covered eating area
- 1 office
- 2 store rooms
- 1 vegetable garden
- 1 shaded playing area
- 1 swimming pool
- 1 resource centre
The ‘longdawels’ will be for classrooms (8 x 5m), the kitchen is for preparing breakfast and lunch, the covered eating area is for eating, the office is for the Early Learning Centre’s administration and sponsors correspondence, the store rooms are for exactly for that, the vegetable garden is so that we can grow healthy, strong children with a variety of vegetables for lunch, the shaded playing area is for outside time to develop gross motor skills, the swimming pool is so that the children can learn to swim and be confident in water before taking on the sea on the Wild Coast and the resource centre is so that the children can always fulfil their love of learning once they have left the Early Learning Centre, with information in the form of books, magazines and internet use at the resource centre.
We will be getting a survey done of the area, but the selection process of the children is currently based on 75% of the children coming from worse-case scenario families (having no parents) and these children will need to be fully sponosred; 15% of the children will have 1 working parent, and these children will need to be subsidised. The other 10% of the children will have 2 working parents, and these will be full-paying children.
I am starting Phase 1 of Ikhaya Labantwana Montessori on 15 February 2010, with our first 13 children. 3 of these children are full-paying at R300.00 per month, 5 of the children will need to be subsidised and will pay R75.00 per month, and the other 5 children will have free education and meals and will need to be fully sponsored.
If any of you work for corporate companies, please can you let me know who to contact within your company regarding CSI (corporate social involvement) – tax write off, funding!! Please! Also if any of you, your family, friends, sports mates, pub buddies, or anyone you know would like to sponsor a rural child and give them a solid educational foundation and a love of learning for life………please contact us.
What is Montessori?
Montessori education is based on Maria Montessori’s discovery that small children of between 2 and 6 years old, learn directly from their environment and relatively little from listening to a teacher talking in class. She discovered that all children, no matter what hardships they have suffered, were capable of achieving great things, when simply given what their development needed. She was able to look at children whose history was radically different from her own and was still be able to understand them. She treated them with respect and they responded by acting with dignity. She showed that children fail, not because they have some innate deficiency, but because adults have failed to give them the right conditions in which to prosper. Maria Montessori developed this child-centred, educational method based on understanding children’s natural learning tendencies.
In the Montessori prepared environment, there is a variety of activity, as well as a great deal of movement. The specially designed manipulative materials for development invite the children to engage in learning activities of their own individual choice. Under the guidance of the directress, children in a Montessori classroom learn by making discoveries, using the materials, while cultivating concentration, respect, motivation, self-discipline and a lifelong love of learning.
In the calm, ordered space, children work on activities at their own pace and experience freedom in an environment that is specially designed to meet their developmental needs.
In the prepared environment, all the learning materials are child size and are arranged invitingly on low, open shelves. Children may choose whatever materials they would like to use, but “knowledge must precede choice”, meaning that the directress must have presented this work to the child. Children may work with the materials for as long as the material holds their interest, as this builds concentration, which leads to repetition, which results in perfection. When the child has finished with the activity, he returns it to the same place on the shelf from which it came.
Each piece of material in a Montessori environment isolates one quality. In this way, the concept the child is to discover is isolated. All the materials are self-correcting, so when a piece does not fit or is left over, the child easily perceives the error, and there is no need for adult ‘correction’. The child is able to solve problems independently, while building self-confidence and experiencing the satisfaction that comes from accomplishment.
Maria Montessori observed that when children are allowed freedom in an environment suited to their needs, they ‘blossom’. After a period of intense concentration, children appear to be refreshed and stronger, as they are busy creating themselves through work. Through continued concentrated work of their own choice, children grow in inner-discipline and peace. Maria Montessori called this process “normalisation” and cited it as “the most important single result of our whole work”.
Characteristics of normalisation include a love of order, a love of work, spontaneous concentration, attachment to reality, the power to act from real choice, obedience, independence and joy.
To summarize, Montessori education helps children develop creativity, problem solving, critical thinking and time management skills, so that they can contribute to society and the environment. It helps children become fulfilled persons in their particular time and place on earth.