"Being here at Kwasa has taught me not to give up … I need to carry on and have dreams."

A founding vision from humble beginnings

16 years ago, Sharron Dinnie, an Anglican rector (now retired), had a vision to provide a quality education which would break the cycle of poverty she witnessed in an informal settlement called Daggafontein.

Kwasa’s mission is to educate the students of Daggafontein, equipping them academically and socially, safeguarding them, and improving their health and nutrition. Only then will they be able to escape the cycle of violence, poverty and poor health in which they currently live to lead valued and economically independent lives.

‘Kwasa’ is Zulu for ‘the light after the storm’. Sharron’s drive is for the young people of Daggafontein to experience the light after the storm, and to participate fully in the new South Africa as skilled, ambitious, independent, enterprising and well rounded young adults. More on the founding of Kwasa


Sharron Dinnie given responsibility of meeting educational needs of children from the informal settlement of Daggafontein (Springs SA)

The Reverend Sharron Dinnie, working as a priest in an Anglican church in Springs ( 40km S.E.of Johannesburg) South Africa, saw the huge needs of the community living in nearby Daggafontein. The community was based in an informal settlement, living in self-built shacks with no electricity or sewerage system and only a few taps with running water. There was no schooling, huge unemployment among the adults and HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis were common.

Sharron, nominated to represent the Highveld community at a meeting called by a local ward councillor, found herself in charge of meeting the educational needs of the children in the Daggafontein community.

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A local land owner who has a property in Daggafontein, allows Sharron to host classes for children in a small red bricked building.

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‘The Little Red School’ is formed.

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The government refuse funding for ‘The Little Red School’ claiming that the 54 children in the school were too few to meet their funding criteria.

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The numbers however, continue to grow.

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School numbers grow, some of the classes begin to be held in shipping containers.

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The school comes to the attention of overseas supporters.

An interested group from St John’s Church in Washington DC visit the school and make a commitment to contribute towards the funding of the school and to support Sharron in her mission to provide an education for the children of Daggafontein.

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The school becomes known as Daggafontein Primary.

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The school grows, gains more support from local companies and begins to support adults in the community.

Local companies begin to visit the school and offer support.

The women from the informal settlement establish sewing and craft groups. Adult education classes, Aids courses and adult support groups begin to be established in the school.

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The project is re-directed and Kwasa is born.

By the end of this year the project declines as the numbers of children coming to the school is simply too great to provide a quality education for them.

Residents and funders are informed that The Little Red School/Daggafontein Primary would close and then start again from scratch. This is the dawning of Kwasa. The idea was to start a pre-primary school which would grow each year as the children progressed to primary and beyond.

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Kwasa opens.

Kwasa Pre-primary school officially opens 11th February 2006.

The children who were part of The Little Red School/Daggafontein Primary continue to be supported by the new school. Transport is provided to take them to schools in Kwa Thema and they are then transported back to Kwasa for an aftercare programme where teachers and volunteers at Kwasa assist them with their homework and give them a meal.

Funds continue to be raised from St John’s Church Washington and from Rathfarnham parish just outside Dublin.

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Kwasa continues to become more established and to benefit from support from a range of charities.

Holy Trinity Church in Guildford becomes involved in sending donations of toys, furniture and clothes to Kwasa. A grant from the Comis Foundation in the USA enables an extension to the Pre-primary school building. The extension includes a kitchen, a classroom and ablution facilities.

Kwasa is registered as a Non-profit Organisation allowing children from the impoverished community to access Early Childhood Development education.

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Resources and the fabric of the buildings at Kwasa improve.

A resource room containing donated books, a tv and some computers is opened. A vegetable patch is made. Classrooms are painted by volunteers.

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Kwasa obtains a school minibus so that children can be transported to and from school.

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A girls’ home is opened in Springs

The girls’ home is established in the town of Springs as a place of safety for 5 of the most vulnerable, orphaned and abandoned children from the settlement. A house mother is appointed to care for the girls. The home is sponsored by charities from USA and Ireland and supported by local charities.

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Kwasa continues to strengthen links with supporters from overseas.

Sharron, two teachers from Kwasa and a 9 year old student supported by Kwasa, Sibulele Matshaba, visit Washington DC. An initiative is established that a visit should be made to Washington DC every alternate year in order to give a number of students from Kwasa the opportunity to experience a little bit of life away from the limitations placed on them by their circumstances.  

During this 2010 visit, Reverend Sharron Dinnie is asked to open the senate in the USA, the first South African to be afforded this opportunity.

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A group from Holy Trinity Guildford visit Springs and Jan visits Kwasa for the first time.

Jan is inspired by meeting Sharron and seeing the work she is doing. As a manager of a pre-school in the UK, she saw the scale of the challenge Sharron is tackling.

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West Green Nursery School, run by Jan and Annie begins its involvement with Kwasa.

When Jan returns to West Green and talks about her experiences at Kwasa, the staff decide to begin fund raising. Pupils at West Green send letters, cards and pictures to the children at Kwasa.

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Annie and Jan visit Kwasa to provide staff training for the pre-school staff.

Annie and Jan spend a week working with the pre-school staff at Kwasa. The staff training focusses on working with the teachers to examine how young children learn and to help them in understanding the importance of play and discovery. Together the group look at how there could be a gradual move away from classroom instruction to a more experiential and imaginative model of pre-school education. The Kwasa staff are receptive and interested but it is clear that many challenges remain. In order to support the training, West Green Nursery raise funds to purchase resources which Jan and Annie take with them and leave at Kwasa for future use.

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Computers , printers, a sound system and television are donated.

The donation of technology items to Kwasa allow children to start learning computer skills. However the lack of internet at Kwasa and the problems of security (equipment is stolen many times) limits progress in this area.

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Links with Holy Trinity Church Guildford and West Green Nursery are strengthened

Sharron and 4 children from Kwasa visit Guildford. During this time they also visit West Green Nursery School. Sharron speaks to a large group of parents of children at the nursery describing to them the circumstances of the Kwasa children and the ambitions for the school. As a result of this, many of the West Green parents express an interest in  supporting Kwasa by sponsoring children and by further fund raising.

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Sharron purchases the land on which Kwasa pre-school is situated.

The property on which Kwasa pre-school is situated becomes available for auction. The land consists of 20.19 hectares and many investors are interested in buying the land. However, at the auction Sharron addresses the group of potential buyers and tells them they are not ‘allowed‘ to buy it as she has other plans for it. When the bidding starts, Sharron offers R500,000.00. The room remains silent and the property is sold to Kwasa. This now means that Sharron can begin to develop plans to expand the school.

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West Green Charitable Trust is established.

West Green Charitable Trust is established in order to raise funds for Kwasa and channel UK donations to the school.

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A safe house for girls is built on the Kwasa site.

Kwasa, at this point is feeding over 200 children a day. However, it is noticed that there is consistent shortage of about 20 meals each day. On further investigation it is found that about that number of children are coming onto the property through a hole in the fence and lining up to receive a daily meal with the Kwasa pupils. These were homeless children living in the shelter of ditches and culverts. The meal a day is keeping them alive. A call for help is sent out and donations arrive to build a safe house for the most vulnerable children. A local business man John Crane and a US citizen provide substantial donations and John Crane House is built and furnished.

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South African Education Department begins to subsidise the school.

The South African Education Department starts subsidising Kwasa with promises to pay 2 teachers and to provide 2 mobile classrooms.

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2 new pre-school classrooms begin to be built

Using funding raised by charities including West Green Charitable Trust, 2 new classrooms and a modest entrance to the school begin to be built.

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Kwasa College is registered as an independent school.

The Department of Education approves Kwasa as an independent school. Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipal Council approve funding for 60% of the teacher salary budget, 2 years in arrears from 2016. The Department for Social Development also agrees to provide funds  to cover the costs of breakfast and lunch for all pupils.

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Plans are drawn up for a primary school and a secondary school on the Kwasa site.

LYT Architects work pro bono to provide a master plan for the 20 hectare site, to include a pre-school, primary school and secondary school. They provide detailed designs for modular classrooms.

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The two new classrooms and entrance to the school are completed.

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Grade 1 (the first year of primary education in SA) is established.

The first 22 grade 1 (5-6 year olds) enrol. They each have uniforms and their new teacher Mrs Finke is appointed. The grade one students occupy one of the new classrooms. The school reception office, meeting room and office for the school administrator are complete and occupied. Annie, Rich, Jan and Phil visit Kwasa and see the new classrooms in use.

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Security fencing completed.

Security fencing, funded by the West Green Charitable Trust, around the entirety of the pre-school and primary school is completed. Security guards are on site 24 hours a day. The power supply to the school is upgraded.

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Squatters occupying the large ‘white building’ on the Kwasa site are relocated.

The large ‘White Building’ at the entrance to the school site and on school grounds had been occupied by squatters for many years. This compromised the security of the site and prevented the building’s use as school accommodation. With support from the authorities including the City Manager and the local Ward Councillor, the occupants are relocated to another part of the site as a temporary measure.

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Second care home is completed.

The Mike Howe boys House is opened accommodating 14 orphaned and vulnerable boys in the community. A house mother is appointed. Contributions from a variety of donors provide feeding and cleaning costs.

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Four new classrooms, pupil toilets and staff toilets built.

The new buildings at Kwasa now mean that all 176 pupils are accommodated in classrooms and none in shipping containers. Three of the new classrooms are funded by four generous UK supporters through the West Green Charitable Trust. The fourth is funded from a US Foundation. Jan and Phil visit Kwasa for the dedication of the new classrooms.

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Grade 1 and Grade 2 pupils enrol.

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Two new teachers are appointed.

Two qualified teachers, Reufus Leso and Sonja Coetzee  are appointed.

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Parnership agreed between Kwasa and St Dunstan’s College.

A significant partnership between St Dunstan’s College and Kwasa is agreed to provide support to Kwasa. St Dunstan’s is a prestigious fee paying independent school in Benoni (10 miles from Kwasa). The partnership aims to provide teacher exchange, curriculum guidance, fundraising and governance support to Kwasa. Mike McConnachie (Head of St Dunstan’s) and Patrick Jardine (Vice Chairman of the Council of St Dunstan’s) join the Kwasa Board of Trustees.

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West Green Nursery furniture and resources shipped to Kwasa.

In July 2015 West Green Nursery School closes as Jan and Annie retire. The staff of West Green work together to thoroughly clean and pack all the furniture and resources which are then shipped to Kwasa for use in the Pre-Primary classes. In November Annie and Rich visit Kwasa to unload and unpack the shipping container. Annie spends time with the staff discussing how some of the resources might be used in the classrooms.

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Kwasa college registers as a Non Profit company and receives approval to register as an independent primary school.

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Kwasa continues to support 76 children who have moved on from Kwasa.

10 UK supporters are now providing bursaries to enable 16 children to attend local schools whose parents would otherwise be unable to afford the R500 month school fees. Another 50 children are supported by Kwasa to continue their education at local schools: Strubenvale Primary, Werda Primary or Springs Technical High school.

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The chapel on the Kwasa school site is renovated.

The chapel renovation is funded by supporters from Chapel-Of-the-Cross, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

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The chapel at Kwasa is consecrated.

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The first borehole is drilled.

The borehole accesses the water table to provide ‘free’ water to the Kwasa site.

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Kwasa now has grades 1,2 and 3 in the primary school.

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The pre-primary school continues to provide early years education for children aged 3 to 5.

The 116 children in the pre-primary school are taught in 5 classes up to Grade R. After following a traditional South African rote learning approach to literacy and numeracy, Sharron is now moving towards developing elements of the Emilio Reggio educational philosophy. This encourages learning though the children’s own experiences and by the choices they make. She is working with the staff in the pre-primary to explore how this approach might be used at Kwasa. A clear development plan is set out for Early Years at Kwasa, making the development of teaching skills and the curriculum a priority.

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Grade 4 pupils enrol.

The college continues to grow. There are now 116 children in the pre-primary school and 88 students in the Primary school. The 4 primary staff are qualified teachers and are supported by a young qualified rugby, football and cricket coach.

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Kwasa continues to support pupils who left Kwasa pre-primary before Kwasa College began in 2014.

The sponsorship programme continues to fund pupils at local primary and secondary schools. One sponsored pupil, Ayabonga Mlonzi had a dream to work as cabin crew for South African Airlines. Thanks to donors in the UK, she is able to complete a training course and graduate as a Flight Attendant.

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Building of 2 new classrooms begins.

The building works, funded by West Green Charitable Trust are assisted by a partnership with St Peter’s, an independent school in Johannesburg. The grade 11 students of St Peter’s raise funds to purchase bricks and other materials and spend November bricklaying for the 2 new classrooms under the supervision of Kwasa’s builder Gordon Whittingdon. Annie and Rich visit Kwasa with one of our generous donors from the UK.

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The ‘White Building’ is completely cleared.

Plans are in place to transform the ‘White Building’ to a hall and staff/administrative area.

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Netball courts built.

Recognition of the need for girls at Kwasa to take part in more physical activity inspires Assupol, a South African insurance company, to fund the installation of Netball courts.

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An outdoor learning area for pre-primary children is planned, marked out and building begins.

Recognising the benefits of young children spending considerable time in an outdoor environment and aiming to encourage a more imaginative approach to early years development, Annie and Jan work with Sharron to design an outdoor learning area. This area is designed to encourage children to develop fine and gross motor skills, imaginative play, decision making, working collaboratively, experimenting and discovering. Rich and Annie visit Kwasa to mark out the outdoor learning area and building begins.

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Grades 1 to 5 now established at Kwasa Primary.

The 2018 intake takes numbers (including pre-primary and primary) on roll to 234. Many older Kwasa students continue to be sponsored through Primary, High and Technical schools around Springs.

In November Annie and Rich visit Kwasa and are joined by Claire and Tom, an English teacher and Head Teacher from a special secondary school in Basingstoke. During this visit Claire provides training for the Grade 5 teacher and models some lessons. Tom spends time with Sharron discussing possible ideas for progressing the teaching and learning in the school.

Sport, as an important part of life at Kwasa, continues to develop. Children from the settlement have little or no experience of team games or understanding of the importance of co-operation, collaboration and physical activity in terms of their health. Now at the end of each school day, a further period of team sport is timetabled. Each year group has a football and netball team and games are held between year groups and against other schools.

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Leadership, Governance and Finance strengthens.

The transition of Kwasa, initially an off-shoot of an Anglican Diocesan ‘safe space’ project, to a fully autonomous College, registered as a charity and non-profit and approved by the Department of Education has been hard fought. Kwasa is now governed by a board of trustees, led by Sharron Dinnie, which has a clear vision of Kwasa as a high achieving educational institution.

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‘White Building’ roof goes on.

LYT Archtects provide the plans to transform the ‘White Building’ into a school hall complete with raised stage, a media/IT suite, offices for admin staff and a school/community clinic. Superfluous walls are demolished, openings are made for doors and the gables prepared in readiness for the roof.

The students from St Peter’s School in Johannesburg once again raise funds and spend a week cleaning bricks, mixing ‘daga’ and laying bricks under the supervision of Kwasa’s builder.

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The Reggio Emilia approach to education is adopted in the pre-primary school.

The Reggio Emilio educational philosophy continues to be adopted in the pre-primary school. This method of teaching and learning is defined by:

  • Children’s relationships with other children and materials used as the basis for exploration
  • Children having some control over the direction of their learning
  • Children learning through experiences of touching, moving, listening and observing.
  • Children having the freedom and opportunities to express themselves.

This is a big step for Kwasa where traditional rote learning/teacher directed methods have been used in the pre-primary school for many years. It is felt that this change will make a hugely positive change to the quality of teaching and learning.

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Outdoor Learning area completed

The completion of the outdoor learning area for the pre-primary children supports the Reggio approach to learning, providing an environment where children can work independently in small groups, experimenting, discovering and exploring.

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Food Waste unit fitted to produce biogas to cook food.

Food is an enormously important element of the school day for all students at Kwasa. All children are provided with both breakfast and lunch. The biogas produced on site provides a free source of cooking fuel.

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Grades 1 to 6 established at Kwasa.

Most of the oldest students have attended Kwasa since pre-primary and their progress is clear to see. Their confidence has grown, their aspirations are high and they are acquiring the essential skills, knowledge, attitudes and values they need to equip them to escape their life of poverty, ill health, domestic and sexual violence and low life expectancy.

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Owen Thomas appointed Head of Primary

Formalising Kwasa’s school management and governance includes the appointment of Owen Thomas as the Primary Head of School. For the first time Sharron is supported by an experienced educationalist and school leader with responsibility for inspiring and managing the school teaching staff and driving educational improvement and student attainment.

Kwasa has now established a management structure with Sharron, as Rector leading the Kwasa Board, setting the vision and building external relationships. Owen Thomas as Head of Primary is responsible for teaching and learning, staff development and recruitment, behaviour management and day to day running of the school.

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Staff training on the use of the outdoor learning area takes place.

Jan, Phil, Annie and Rich visit Kwasa. Phil and Rich make resources to be used in the outdoor learning area by the pre-primary children. The resources include a mud kitchen, mark making boards, weaving frames and a water ‘wall’. Jan and Annie provide staff training for the pre-primary staff. The focus is on exploring how children can work in small groups, exploring and discovering, experimenting and collaborating and creating and sharing.

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Building of 2 new classrooms and art room begin.

The 2 new classrooms are funded by The West Green Charitable Trust at a cost in the region of £50,000.

The art room receives substantial funding from a generous donor linked to St Peter’s College in Johannesburg and once again, the Grade 11 students from St Peter’s help with the building process.

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The White Building continues to develop.

The windows, stage structure and 2nd fix electrics are completed.

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Polytunnels to grow vegetables set up.

A local engineering company adopts Kwasa as one of its Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment charities. They invest in 3 large agri-tunnels, employ agricultural consultants, fund and train 2 workers from the settlement and drill a second borehole. The tunnels are filled with organic, pesticide free tomatoes, beet and spinach which can be harvested and used by the school cooks for lunchtime meals. Spare produce is sold at a small cost to parents and the wider settlement community. The primary object is to increase the nutritional intake of the Kwasa students.

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A new Kwasa mini-bus is donated.

A donation from Holy Trinity Church is Guildford allows the purchase of a new and bigger mini-bus. This is essential to transport children to and from school.

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Bursaries continue to fund many children.

Monthly donations from individuals and companies from the UK continue to pay for children to attend Kwasa who otherwise would be unable to afford it and to pay for children from Kwasa who have moved on to Secondary Schools.

Funding from the Department of Education (20% of Kwasa income) is paid on time and in full.

The town of Springs is showing signs of revitalisation and regeneration which will improve employment prospects.

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Kwasa College gets its own website.

Donors from the US enable the establishment of the Kwasa website: www.kwasacollege.org

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Grade 7 completes the Primary school at Kwasa.

341 children are now being educated at Kwasa college, 151,000 meals a year are being provided, 58 bursaries are paid for by UK supporters and 16 particularly vulnerable children are cared for in the Kwasa care homes.

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The Head of Pre-Primary retires and a new Head is appointed.

Gill Edgar retires as Head of Pre-Primary and Sonja Van Loggerenberg is appointed as her replacement. Sonja will continue to develop the Emilio Reggio approach to early years education at Kwasa.

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The two new classrooms and art room are completed.

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The ‘White Building’ continues to develop.

The new floor is down, doors are installed, lighting is complete and work is now taking place to complete the computer room, clinic area and toilets.

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The Covid 19 pandemic hits South Africa and Kwasa is temporarily closed.

Government orders all schools to close on March 16th 2020. During the closure the staff keep in contact with the children as much as possible. Sharron sets up Whatsapp groups with the staff so that she can continue to support them. A food bank, using food donated by the local community and businesses, provides food for  240 of the most needy Kwasa families on a fortnightly basis.

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Kwasa re-opens for Grade 7.

Grade 7 students return to school on 8th June 2020. Social distancing and hygiene procedures are in place. All staff also return to school on this date.

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The future for Kwasa

The future for Kwasa is hugely positive.

• The first Kwasa Grade 1 students are now about to move on to High School.
• The school is accredited by the department for Education, and is operating successfully as an independent ‘low fee’ school.
• Partners around the world, and within South Africa, are supporting the development of the school, and providing bursary support to enable those who can’t afford to pay, to still receive a quality education.

The Kwasa team, with your continued support, will grow to a two form entry Primary School, and thence into quality High School education.