South Africa: Gaia Waldorf School was established in 1998 in Cape Town, by a group of parents who realized there was a demand for Waldorf education in the area. In the suburb of Oude Molen Village, Gaia Waldorf School celebrates diversity and allows children from a broad spectrum of culture and advantage to be educated side by side. Today the initiative comprises a playgroup, two kindergartens and a school leading up to Grade 7. Gaia also runs a well-managed aftercare facility. There are currently about 170 children enrolled at Gaia Waldorf School.
Gaia, the Greek goddess of all life on earth nourishes all creatures and fills the world with life. Like the goddess, the school wants to be there for everyone and does not differentiate between skin colour, social background, religion or financial status. Thus learners reflect the full the range of the Western Cape Province demographics in terms of race, as well as a wide range of religious affiliations
“A Jewish boy with a very privileged background has three very good friends in school. One of them comes from a township and his family is financially struggling to survive. The two others are children from a Rastafarian family and from an Indian family. Watching those friendships is a true sign for the fulfilment of what people like Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu were dreaming of. If we are honest to ourselves, we have to confess, that this picture of harmony and unity is still very rare in South Africa. At Gaia Waldorf School it is not a dream anymore – It exists, it is reality.” (Michel Schnabel former volunteer at Gaia Waldorf School)
Despite the desire for equality and freedom of opportunity, education remains one of the last bastions of elitism and divisiveness within South African society. Education is usually reserved for privileged children or rich families and even in the 21st Century it still remains a rare opportunity. Although there are schools now almost everywhere, even in the poorest regions and territories in Africa, “school” is often just a building where children get something to eat. Often there exists no curriculum.
The Gaia School on the other hand celebrates annual festivals such as Easter and Christmas; there are Eurythmy lessons, karate training, and much more that helps students to develop into independently thinking people. Gaia Waldorf School receives no government subsidy and therefore the school fees cannot be as low as in some government schools. In order to keep the fees as low as possible, Gaia keeps expenditure to a minimum. Parents are actively involved in the running of the school and are expected to assist with maintenance of the school buildings and the running of fundraising events.
Although especially South Africa has a great infrastructure, a growing economy and some places resemble rich parts of southern Europe, you will also find the poorest of the poor. Gaia Waldorf School is located in an environment in which a human life in some places in the Townships is just worth € 5. That’s how much a gang member gets if he kills someone from a rivalling gang. HIV/AIDS, the “country’s common disease” is a problem that represents a great challenge to the government and the economy. But in general it is the lack of education, which is the root of almost all problems in South Africa. As a result each person receiving a good education is an incredibly important cornerstone to the South African society and to the foundation of a positive future.
Help us support the Gaia Waldorf School so the initiative may continue to contribute to a better future for South Africa.