A new, low-cost primary school opens its doors in Johannesburg

IMAGE: Streetlight Schools


Thabo Mohlala

Hidden in the old and decrepit building in the south-eastern part of the quiet and sleepy part of Jeppestown in Johannesburg, is the new Jeppe Park Primary School.

This modest and privately owned educational outfit under Streetlight schools, is located on 28 Madison Street Bjala Square Building.

And by the look of things, a lot will be said about it in the near future.

According to David Fu, a co-founder and chief executive of the school, Streetlights Schools are conceptually and philosophically different from the ordinary public schools.

He said the name was inspired by the experience of a young girl whose mother struggled to pay for her household electricity.

And whenever lights went off, she will go do her homework under a nearby street light.

Metaphorically, Streetlights Schools will illuminate and open the minds of the young ones, explained Fu.

He said the Jeppe Park Primary School started as a pilot after-care facility in 2013 in a closed shoe factory.

Two layers later, they launched a prototype model to figure out how their plans and teaching approaches will pan out in real life situations. And at the beginning of 2016, Jeppe Park Primary School was launched as a flagship project of the Streetlight Schools.

The school uses English and provides classes from grade R-2.

The plan, according to Fu, is to grow a grade each year until grade 7.

This year alone they enrolled 130 learners and have introduced a new grade 2 class.

Grade R has two classes with 20-26 children in each class.

Admission is open to all learners with the school fees set at R5 000 a year.

“Our vision is underpinned by our desire to provide high quality, innovative and dynamic education to the needy children from Jeppestown’s community,” said Fu.

He said the teaching approach is informed by global perspectives drawn from successful education systems such Finland, New Zealand and Italy (Reggio Emilia).

But these, added Fu, were adapted to suit the South African context. The first things we did, said Fu, was to recreate the learning space in such a way it can stimulate and inspire learners.

He said at the heart of their curriculum is “integrated learning and practical application of theory”.

This involves combination of subjects, for instance English, Maths and art are combined while ‘Theme and Art’ merges life-skills, science and art. Literacy and numeracy are divided into reading or writing workshops and practical math. He said they also follow a standardised lesson structure.

For instance, before a class starts the teacher will frame or give a broad context in terms of the areas of focus for the day.

The second part of the learning period would be devoted to activity-driven group learning.

Fu said computers and technology is also form part of the curriculum mix.

The idea, he said, is to expose learners to technology so that they can embrace it at a young age.

Physical education is also offered to promote physical activity.

Learners get to play a variety of sport ranging from soccer, rugby and cricket, cardio-related activities such as aerobics, dance and yoga.


Most of the learners at the school, according to Fu, come from impoverished backgrounds and some display behaviours that point to a need for psycho, emotional and social support.

To help deal with these challenges they have enlisted the services of a school-based social worker.

He said their curriculum offering is designed in such a way that it inherently addresses some of these challenges.

“We provide a learning environment that fosters a sense of caring and community and promotes empathy and love. We try to inculcate these values in our children; we want to feel and see themselves as part of the broader community,” Fu said.

He said the school cannot succeed to achieve and cultivate these values without the teachers.

As a result, they invest heavily on selecting, appointing and training the right people.

“We employ teachers who are passionate about education and those who love working with children. He or she must have the right mind-set and attitude and should also be curious and willing to learn,” said Fu.

As part of empowering teachers, said Fu, the school’s leadership is hands-on and provides coaching or mentoring, do observation and provide objective feedback to teachers.

The school is working closely with Instil, a specialist education outfit, which trains the staff on basic and rudimentary teaching skills on how to become innovative.



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