South Africa: The Zenzeleni Waldorf School was founded in 1999 in Khayelitsha (Xhosa for a new home), one of the biggest townships in Cape Town, by the Centre for Creative Education. There are seven classes with up to 40 children each and the school has 250 pupils all in all.
The so-called Cape Flats stretch out into the distance, endlessly flat and sandy. They don’t seem to have much to offer the people who live there. Here, one of the biggest townships in Cape Town is to be found: Khayelitsha. In the 1950’s, during the Apartheid regime, a law was passed forbidding black people to live in the cities of South Africa and so Khayelitsha was born. After Apartheid Khayelitsha continued to grow, because many families settled there in the hope of finding work in Cape Town. They put up huts made of corrugated iron and wood, the so-called shacks. However, unemployment is one of the burning issues of this township, with an unemployment rate of over 75%.
The government’s efforts to improve the living conditions in Khayelitsha have not yet reached all of the people living there. Running water and electricity are supplied free of charge, but there are still districts which have received neither. In addition to the poverty, AIDS and gangs, which bring violence with them, are serious problems in the township. All parents who are able to, send their children to schools outside of the townships in the hope that they will one day have the chance to leave Khayelitsha.
Over many years the Centre for Creative Education trained women from the townships in running a crèche or nursery school. In time, kindergartens inspired by Waldorf Education started out, with the simplest materials and in the smallest spaces, but with many children: the Educare Centres. The children found new homes where they could go when their parents had to work or search for jobs. The positive experiences lead to the question from the parents if a school based on the same principles as the Educare Centres could be founded. And so in 1999 the Zenzeleni Waldorf School was opened. As the founding of the school was the wish of various families from the township, it was accepted by the community in Khayelitsha right from the start.
By now, even the parents who are better off and can send their children to schools outside of Khayelitsha, consider Zenzeleni when choosing a school for their children. The good reputation of the Zenzeleni Waldorf School has spread, the reward for the commitment and tireless efforts of the school staff.
The school fees are 10.000 Rand per child per year. The parents try to pay 2400 Rand, but are not always able to do so. Only 60 % of the costs are covered by the government, so that the rest of the money must be sought elsewhere so that the valuable work of that is being done at this school can continue. The Centre for Creative Education and the Zenzeleni Waldorf School have been partners of the Friends of Waldorf Education for a long time. Every year 33 volunteers are sent there.