They May be Young, but…

From 10-14 July we held a very successful Standard Bank National Schools Festival in Grahamstown, South Africa. Just over 900 matric students from all around Southern Africa came together to experience 5 full days of the Arts. What transpired can only be described as inspirational, not only for the teachers and learners, but for the staff of the Arts Education project as well.

Months of preparation go into organising the festival, and sure, at times, we wonder why on earth we’re allowing ourselves to go through what feels like a gauntlet of stress and anxiety. But oh!, to watch as these future leaders discover more about themselves, engage their whole being in workshops, lectures and productions, mingle with peers from every walk of life and be given the space to stimulate their own creative ‘uniqueness’, is truly a humbling experience for us.

Many of these learners will not choose the arts as a career option, and that’s perfectly fine by us! Our project is not about creating the next soap star or stand-up comedian; what we want to achieve, more than anything else, is to create an experience that allows each person to find themselves and realise that they’re capable of so much more than what has been expected of them before. And if they fall in love with the arts by the end of the festival, then that’s another proud moment for us.

What better way to see the impact and get a better idea of what goes on during our festivals, than to read testimonies from learners themselves? One of the workshops offered during the Standard Bank National Schools Festival was given by Rod Amner, a writing & editing lecturer at Rhodes University’s School of Journalism & Media Studies, and what transpired during these workshop sessions was remarkable! The workshop, Be an Arts Journalist, allowed learners to express their experiences (and sometimes even concerns) that came about during the Festival and place it on a blog specifically created for the workshop. Articles range from show reviews, personal reflections and general festival observations, with each submission taking an honest and often hard-hitting look at their experience.

We recommend that you take a squizz through the blog (address below), absorb what these young minds have to say and just as we have, gain a deeper understanding about the lives and personal experiences of South Africa’s youth. As one learner put it, “The whole experience of the festival has made me question the allocation of titles like Arts Person or Science Person. In an age where information travels so fast and so widely, worlds tend to collide much more often and it feels as though one cannot simply be one thing without being at least a little of the other.” (Simone le Roux)

The blog can be found at: www.schoolfest2011.wordpress.com

A big thank you to Rod Amner and Push Nqelana as well as the editorial assistance provided by Alexandra Smith and Bongeka Gumede. May you continue to challenge and inspire young, creative minds!

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Top 50 2011 National Olympiad Winners Announced!

The 2011 National English Olympiad, sponsored by De Beers, has offically announced their top 50 winners! The exam which took place 8 March, saw over 6 700 Grade 10 – 12 learners from all around Southern Africa enter.

While the rank order of the top 100 will be announed at 11h00 on Thursday 14 July, below is the list of the top 50 learners, in alphabetical order:

Alphabetical List 1 – 15

Name         Surname                  School                                                                     Grade

Emma          Atkinson                      Pietermaritzburg GHS                                                  11

Belinda        Banks                           St Dominic’s Academy, Newcastle                              11

Ruth             Brain                            Springfield Convent                                                       12

Anika            Brand                          St Patrick’s College, CBC                                               12

Christiaan    Bronkhorst                 St Andrew’s School, Bloemfontein                              11

Roxanne       Carlse                          Uplands College                                                               12

Ethan            Chetty                          Edenglen High School                                                    12

Ian                 Currie                           Pretoria Boys High School                                            12

Kerstin          Hall                               Chesterhouse                                                                   12

Hankyeol      Lee                                Edenglen High School                                                    12

Nicholas       Lock                               York High School                                                            12

Emile            Pienaar                          Somerset College                                                             12

Lillina           Ruiters                           Westerford High School                                                12

Trudie           Spangenberg                 Pretoria High School for Girls                                     12

Esther            Van Zyl                          Parel Vallei                                                                       12

Alphabetical List 16 – 50

Samantha      Arnold                           St John’s DSG                                                                  12

Meghan          Boroughs                      De La Salle Holy Cross Convent                                  12

Muhammed

Ismail              Bulbulia                        St John’s College                                                             11

Matthew          Field                              Selborne College                                                             11

Allison              Gallant                         Stirling High School                                                       12

Simone             Gray                              The Wykeham Collegiate                                              12

Stuart               Hadfield                       Michaelhouse                                                                   12

Cherith            Herolds                         The King’s College                                                           12

Jessica             Hichens                         Westerford High School                                                12

Nadine            Hugo                               Aurora Private School                                                    11

Jami-Lee       Janse van Rensburg      Stirling High School                                                       12

Raquel           Jones                                Pretoria High School for Girls                                      12

Mary             Kennedy                            Roedean                                                                            12

Yoon Joo      Kim                                    American International School of Mozambique      10

Stuart           Lewis                                 Parktown Boy’s High School                                         12

S                    Linkov                               Somerset College                                                             11

Alexander    Minney                             St Andrew’s College                                                         12

Ashraf           Moolla                              Rondebosch Boy’s High School                                    12

Faizan           Nadvi                                Westville Boy’s High School                                          12

Yolanda        Ndhlovu                           Selly Park Secondary School                                         12

Azraa            Parak                                Parktown Girl’s High School                                          11

Reantha       Pillay                                 Maris Stella                                                                        12

Nashin         Pillay                                 Northwood School                                                            11

Murray        Polkinghorne                   Kearsney College                                                               12

Ruci             Pretorius                           Midstream College                                                            12

Olga             Pretorius                           Rhenigh Girl’s High School                                             12

Nina            Reinach                             Glenwood House                                                                11

Scott            Roberts                              Westville Boy’s High School                                            12

Holly           Robson                               St Mary’s, Waverley                                                           12

Emma         Ruiters                               Crawford College, Pretoria                                               12

Vanessa      Salisbury                           The Wykeham Collegiate                                                  12

Claudia       Schmidt                             Crawford College, Sandton                                              12

Roxine        Staats                                 Hudson Park High School                                                12

Jolandi       Swanepoel                         Pretoria High School for Girls                                         12

Joanne       Tomlinson                         Heronbridge College                                                          12

A BIG CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL TOP 50 LEARNERS! And to the Top 15, we’ll see you at our 2011 Standard Bank National Schools Festival in Grahamstown (10th – 14th July)!

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De Beers Olympiad Winners Tell of Their Experience in the UK

From Left: Chaperone & Director of Scifest Africa Anja Fourie, Francois Kassier, chaperone & Olympiad Officer Niki Searle, Kerstin Hall and Kajal Tulsi.

Over 6 000 Senior High school students from around Southern Africa took part in the annual De Beers English Olympiad Exam in March last year. Kajal Tulsi (Edenvale High School), Francois Kassier (Hilton College) and Kerstin Hall (Chester House) were proudly declared the 2010 Top Three Olympiad winners. Due to their outstanding creative essays, they each received an all-expenses paid trip to the UK to experience the English Language and Culture.

Below are letters written by Francois and Kerstin, telling of their experience to the UK. For more information on the project, please see the bottom on this post.

Letter by Francois Kassier:

“I write this letter in the hopes that, through it, I may reveal to you some small part of my gratitude for this trip. More importantly though, I hope that I can successfully relate the importance, relevance and overall impact that this tour has had on me.

Like the mythical end of the rainbow this trip has always seemed rather unobtainable and while I was lucky enough to receive this prize, this year, it actually provided a very important function every year I entered but did not win, not only to me but to every other youth that enters the Olympiad, motivation.

The sheer scale of the prize provides an incentive so powerful that it draws in many kids who would rather be playing soccer etc. and involves them in an extremely rewarding Olympiad, rewarding in that even though the majority may not win anything the sheer act of participation strengthens their mastery of the English language and encourages academic endeavor which can, and does, leak over into their school work. Like a good restaurant the Olympiad thrives on repeat customers and it is your prize that encourages kids to enter again and again by promoting the simple logic that “hey, if you don’t enter you can’t win.” Because the Olympiad is not solely orientated around grammar or syntax but instead places a far greater emphasis on creativity and imagination it provides an opportunity for children of every level of capability a chance to flex their imaginations and soar. Instead of being exclusive to children unusually gifted in a specific field i.e. mathematics, the English Olympiad provides a platform for anyone to explore the richness and diversity of the English language and, in tandem with your prize, does great things for children across this country.

In regards to the actual trip let me extend to you a hearty thank you for what was an absolutely awesome tour. In almost every way the trip provided me with so many opportunities of enrichment and exploration. Although cliché this trip truly has widened both my horizons, perceptions and understandings of so many different areas of both history and modern-day life. The sheer scale of the cathedrals was matched only by the brilliance of the various theatre productions. The richness and awe of the museums was only deepened through the wonder of the real life monuments themselves. But more than the physical, beyond the itinerary, this tour was made special by the people involved and the simple act of exploring a foreign country bursting with both information and excitement. The tour of your London branch proved both intriguing and very enjoyable as the processes involved in your craft were detailed and explained and added the metaphorical cherry on top of an already spectacular tour.

Although I have attempted to relate my gratitude I am afraid that mere black on white will never do justice to your gift. Know that this trip was truly amazing and has meant so much to both myself and Kirstin and Kajal. Thank you, for everything.”

Letter by Kerstin Hall:

Kerstin Hall, Niki Searle & Anja Fourie having fun at an outdoor ice-skating rink.

“I entered the 2010 De Beers English Olympiad and was lucky enough to finish in the Top 3. As a result, I was one of the fortunate recipients of an all-expenses paid trip to England in December 2010, sponsored by your company. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your generosity. It was an incredible trip and I feel extremely privileged to have been a part of it.

 

Quite apart from being fun, it was also a culturally enlightening and eye-opening journey for me. I have learnt so much about art, history and modern English culture. As I have not travelled much beyond South Africa before, everything was very exciting and so different from what I am used to at home. It has left me with the desire to travel more widely and to see as much of the world as possible. But it has also made me appreciate my home and family more.

Due to this trip I feel I have developed more independence and focus. I’m more willing to take decisions regarding my future after school. This is obviously very important, and I thank you for sending me to all these places and prompting me to stand on my own two feet.

The trip lasted just over two weeks and in that time we visited Canterbury, Salisbury, Bath, Stratford-upon-Avon, Oxford and London, where we saw the most incredible architecture, visited numerous museums and art galleries  and watched so many wonderful theatre performances. Of all the shows we attended, I am unable to pick a favourite because I liked them all so much! Matilda, Wicked, Warhorse, Thirty-Nine Steps; these are all productions I would probably never have been able to see had I not won this trip and I really loved them all.

Thank you for allowing me to enjoy this amazing experience.”

Information about the De Beers English Olympiad:

The De Beers English Olympiad is a joint project of the Grahamstown Foundation and the South African Council for English Education. It allows senior school pupils to write an examination in English which encourages entrants to be responsible for their own learning, to think and write creatively and to discover the relevance of their studies for themselves and the world around them. The top 15 candidates win a week to the National Schools Festival and the top three win a trip to the United Kingdom to learn more about the  English language and culture. In 2010 the top 50, while subject to university entrance requirements, won a free first year tuition scholarship to Rhodes University. The 2011 exam was written on Tuesday 3 March. Visit our website for more information.

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A Vision of the Future for Arts Education

Neville Engelbrecht, Director of the Arts Education Department at the Grahamstown foundation (South Africa), answers some questions about the challenges of Arts Education, and his vision for the future.

“Studies show that knowledge of dance develops attributes of creative thought, including originality, fluidity and an ability of abstraction. Theatre teaches us to understand complex situations and incites us to reflect on the motivations of others as well as honing our interpersonal skills. Learning music increases the capacity of reasoning and makes use of the abstract thinking needed in mathematics.” -Steven Brault, Canada Council for the Arts

What is arts education?

Arts Education for me is a very fundamental ingredient that is lacking in our education system in general. We try to fill that gap by providing the youth with our arts-based festivals and other projects.

It promotes collaboration, communication and direct interaction in a non-threatening “neutral” environment. Most importantly, it enables a significant boost of self-esteem and confidence and in doing so, facilitates the discovering of the values of co-operation and empathy that the ensuing self-realisation fosters. This can only mean a healthy society in general.

What is the aim of arts education?

Our aim mainly, is to facilitate the unlocking of the potential for creative thought and imagination within the youth. Whether they become scientists or accountants, we want them to be creative in whatever they do in life and to be confident in their abilities as human beings. Of course we are also interested in encouraging and nurturing an appreciation for the arts as well, but the focus is on spiritually and emotionally healthy future South Africans.

Why is it so important?

For me, especially in the South African context, I think it is absolutely essential that we have arts education. Arts education is not really about creating the next best actor, or director, or whatever.

Whether you become a scientist or an accountant or a lawyer, it is so essential to be creative, to think creatively in life.

The whole point of it is to unlock people’s minds, to get them to think creatively, to get them to think laterally, and in so doing, actually improve their lives immeasurably.

What is your vision for South African Arts Education?

The main ideal would be that schools actually include arts education in their curriculum and that there would be more support and more interest. That would mean in a sense that we wouldn’t be necessary because we fill a huge gap in their education curriculum. But realistically, I think that instead of reaching 15-16000 kids during the year with our projects in arts education, I would like to grow those numbers. I would love to see more support from business and from education and from the government for our projects.

Festivals have been growing over the years; I mean it’s been going for over 37 years since Professor Guy Butler came up with the idea and it started as this tiny small Shakespeare festival for local schools and it’s grown from there. First it was the National Schools Festival in Grahamstown, then it became regional and over the years it’s just been growing and growing. It’s still growing but we’re pretty much limited to the capacity of the venues we go to. We don’t have many of those 1000 seater theatres around the country, so we end up having double festivals in some places just so we can cope with the demand.

It’s a pie in the sky for now, but part of my dream of where I want to see arts education is to be able to go right back to the start, not drop what we’ve got but build on what we have. I would really love to be able to have the capacity to reach even younger learners and expose them to the Arts as young as possible. By the end of primary school would be ideal because learners at that age are that much more receptive. I think if it was spread both towards the end of primary and the end of high school, which would be ideal, but that would be a whole other project in itself.

-Jade Fernley, 2010

 

The 2011 Arts Education Team (from left):  Neville Engelbrecht (Director), Derralyn Short (Manager), Lily May (Senior Administrator), Benita Rama (Marketing Officer), Niki Searle (Olympiad Officer)

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Arts Education is Where We’re At!

Greetings to all teachers, artists, scholars and anyone who accidentally found themselves on our new Schools Festival blog!

While we’re well into 2011, the Ars Education Department here at the Grahamstown Foundation has decided to make a conscious effort to keep our Festival Friends (and future ones!) informed and excited about our cycle of events! This includes creating a new website and a “Schools Festivals” page on Facebook and of course, this blog.

If you’re wondering who we are, what we do and why we do it, feel free to read up about us in the ‘About’ tab at the top of this page. Being Arts AND education based, we’re passionate about keeping the power of the arts alive in South Africa’s youth, while using it as a platform to educate, motivate and inspire the future leaders of our beautiful country.

Other than that, we’ll have a full gallery of pics from our past festivals for you to soon check out, especially if you’ve recently attended a festival and would like to see if you or any friends / favourite artists appear in them.

For those interested teachers, artists and scholars that would like to be involved in any of our festivals, please click on the “Contact” tab at the top of this page and feel free to get hold of us.

Think, Breathe, Be Creativity!

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