A Multi-Cultural School in Rural South Africa
South Africa: Dassenberg Waldorf School is located north of Cape Town in a rural area near the Camphill “Alpha” and in close proximity to the "informal settlement Witsands". The initiative was founded in 1998 and opened one year later on the premises of a gardening farm. Currently about 150 children attend the grades 1-7, the Playgroup and the Kindergarten.
Tantalizing aromas fill the air, sportive events take place on the field and a happy community is gathered at Dassenberg Waldorf School. For the first time ever, the school holds a Potjiekos Competition as a fundraising effort.
From early in the morning the fires are lit and excited parents arrive at school to showcase their culinary talent. The chefs of the day eye one another sceptically to see if one has a bigger pot than the other. Then they begin to cook. With a lot of passion the different kinds of potjies are being prepared including chicken curry, mutton curry, seafood, vegetables etc. While the food is simmering away, children and parents compete in sack races and other sportive events. By around one o’clock the food is ready and the judges, very professionally, taste the food by going around from pot to pot. Finally the suspense is over, as the kindergarten is solemnly announced winner of the competition, closely followed by class 6.
This event was certainly one of the highlights of the year 2010. It was a huge success not only money-wise, but also in bonding as a school community. Therefore the event is set to become an annual tradition.
The Dassenberg Waldorf School is committed to the vision of a new South Africa with a multi-cultural society of different ethnic groups. Much has been achieved in this regard, but so far there is no upper school and therefore the students separate after seven common years and are again divided rather by ethnicity. This is due to the fact that the few Waldorf schools with upper school in Cape Town are not within reach for most of the kids (transportation, high school fees) and the state schools are usually still attended by separation of ethnicity.
The Dassenberg Waldorf School arose out of the initiative of parents and local community members who had long carried the ambition to start a Waldorf school in this area. The vision was of a multi-cultural school, open to children from all economic and cultural backgrounds. In order to bridge the diversity of mother tongues in this area, they chose to use English as the medium of learning, with Afrikaans and Xhosa being taught as separate subjects.
In January 1999 the school opened with eight children and quickly added more students from surrounding farms and neighbouring settlements. Finally, the school building, which was donated by a farm, became too small. An expansion was urgently needed, but the initiative lacked the financial means. With the help of the Friends of Waldorf Education and the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development it was possible to construct a new kindergarten building in 2006.
Now there is new space where children can be cared for under good conditions and their child-oriented education attracts all parts of the population. Dassenberg Waldorf School is on the threshold of a further phase of development. For the future, the establishment of an upper school and the further expansion of the campus are planned. Thus, the number of children can increase significantly. We will continue to support the school in the future.