Amid decaying buildings, dusty streets and behind miles upon miles of razor wire fence is the township of Edendale on the outskirts of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
Along the main road leading into Edendale sits the Bonginkosi Preschool (http://bonginkosi.wordpress.com), a Christian preschool which has served children aged 2-6 in Edendale since 1976. Smiling faces and shouts of “sawubona!” (good morning!) from 35 eager children greeted Redeemer Classical School parent Kristin Augustine in a recent visit to the school.
“Seeing the joy of the children and teachers amid overwhelming poverty was very humbling,” commented Augustine. “Children responded so warmly to a simple hug and a smile,” she continued.
“Bonginkosi” is the Zulu word meaning “praise the Lord.” The preschool currently has students divided into two age groups where they learn the alphabet, English, the Bible and about ever prevalent health needs such as the signs of malnutrition and HIV/AIDS. In a nation with a staggering HIV infection rate, nearly all of the children of Bonginkosi have lost at least one parent to the disease, and many live with only a grandmother.
Redeemer Classical School is now partnering with the Bonginkosi Preschool through the RCS annual reading program. Fourth-grade teacher Jane Fowler has been developing a schoolwide reading incentive program since RCS began. In the past, incentives were given for students in each class to read books culminating in a pizza party for the school. This year, in addition to pizza, students are being asked to solicit pledges for the Bonginkosi Preschool from parents and friends for each book read.
Fowler explained, “We wanted to expand the program to be used as a service project. After finding out that the Augustine’s would be working with the Bonginkosi school next year, it seemed like a natural fit.”
“Each grade has been given a reading goal, and the students at Redeemer are excited to be working to help the children in South Africa,” she continued.
Students are hoping to raise at least $300. This is the cost to sponsor one child for a year at Bonginkosi which includes tuition and two meals per day. All pledges that are raised through the reading program will be presented to the school when the Augustine’s travel to South Africa again in January. The reading program started in October and will conclude after Thanksgiving.
“Our family is very excited to return to South Africa. It will be a great privilege to present the gifts raised from Redeemer to these precious kids”, said Augustine.
The Bonginkosi School was founded in 1976 as a ministry to children in Edendale. In addition to instruction, the children receive two meals per day with food donated by local Christian charities and will soon be grown in a new garden behind the school. The current building is decaying, but through funds raised by African Enterprise (www.africanenterprise.org), a new school building is being constructed down the street from the current building.
Redeemer Classical School (www.redeemerclassical.org) offers a K-8 classical Christian academic program in Harrisonburg/Rockingham County. It began with a vision for a rebirth of classical Christian education in the Valley. Classical education is an interdisciplinary approach to learning that emphasizes the fundamental tools of learning at each developmental stage in a growing child. Key among these tools are classes in formal logic, rhetoric and Latin. Redeemer is located in the former Keezletown Elementary School.
Founding RCS board chair Brian Augustine has been awarded a Fulbright Scholar position through the U.S. Department of State in the School of Chemistry at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, for the 2009 term. He and his wife will be traveling to South Africa with their three daughters from January through July.