The state of education in South Africa, as in many other parts of the world, requires a collaborative approach where organisations must work alongside the government in an effort to find solutions to the various problems facing our education system. Much like the Creating Schools Trust that works in partnership with the Department of Education, BRIDGE is a non-profit organisation with a focus on collaborative learning, working together with government, civil society, educational practitioners, learners, parents and research organisations, in an effort to advance the state of education in South Africa. Comprised of more than 3000 stakeholders from over 650 organisations, BRIDGE aims to create a type of ‘knowledge bank’, sharing, adopting and implementing identified approaches to education that work, and generating innovative ideas through joint problem-solving activities.
BRIDGE focuses on connecting people in five key areas: school leadership; teacher development; learner support; early childhood development; and information, communication and technology. Communities of Practice (CoP) that align with these focus areas are established to connect people and help disseminate knowledge. The members of these ‘communities’ meet regularly to share information and come up with new solutions and approaches. In partnership with the Joint Education Trust and the Catholic Institute of Education, the national CoP for school leadership is currently working on a project that hopes to effect real and sustainable change in ten public schools in Sekhukhune, Limpopo, through their mentorship work with school principals. The project has helped principals develop their School Improvement Plans, monitor teacher and learner progress, evaluate mission and vision statements and refer back to them to ensure that the school is working in line with them, and provide an overall picture of how a school should function. But it’s not a top-down approach – in the words of Miss Mphahlele, principal at Manku Primary school, “The CoP has opened our eyes. We can share different ideas and see where we are going wrong or where we are right. It’s really a sharing session”.
The work that BRIDGE does is so far reaching and all encompassing that it’s hard to put it down in writing, with dozens of events and projects hosted annually. If you’re in the education sector and are interested in learning more about the work that BRIDGE is involved in you have the opportunity this week to witness it first hand when the South African Extraordinary Schools Coalition (SAESC), a project run by BRIDGE, is featured at the Axis Education Summit. Founded in 2010 the coalition is made up of school leaders and teachers from 22 ‘impact schools’ around South Africa – high-quality, achievement-orientated schools that provide disadvantaged learners with access to quality learning. With impressive results, particularly in the areas of maths and science, these schools are clearly doing something right that needs to be shared – which is exactly what BRIDGE is all about.
The Axis summit takes place from the 10th to the 15th July at Wits University. Attendance at the event is free, and includes notes and a daily lunch. Click here should you wish to register to attend.