29 July 2020
A couple of years ago I was driving back from Bloemfontein to Pretoria in South Africa which is a round trip of 10 hours. On the return journey 300 km north of Bloemfontein a rather large traffic policeman stopped me for travelling at 140 km/h.
I admitted I had exceeded the 120 km/h speed limit and climbed out.
We both leaned against the car and discussed the weather and sport while he worked around to the fact that a policeman’s shoes don’t last very long. Before he could ask for money for the shoes I said I wanted to show him why I had been to Bloemfontein.
In the boot was a contract signed that morning by Stanley Malope the Superintendent General of Free State Provincial Department of Education commissioning BCF to train an additional 108 principals to transform their schools to become centres of excellence.
The cop asked me if my name was Ellen. I asked why. He told me a wonderful story about his son. It was July and his son who was in Grade 12 wanted to drop out of school as he felt he was certain to fail to gain a university entrance matriculation during the year end examinations.
He said that someone called Ellen had been responsible for training the principal of the school his son attended and suddenly everything changed. The teachers began teaching. They started after school ‘clinics’ for those who needed extra lessons. The parents and community came on board. Cutting short the story he told me with tears running down his face, his son was now at university and had just completed his first year to become a land surveyor.
He told me to get back in my car and drive 23 km to the next Ultra City Services and to get the jockey to take the petrol out of my car and replace it with Red Bull as my car would go faster so that I could get home sooner. Not bad for the cop who had stopped me for speeding! I am sharing the story with you to demonstrate what transforming a school into a centre of excellence means to children and parents. A very real chance to escape a life in poverty and ultimately enjoy a middle-class lifestyle.
To date BCF has trained over 2,000 principals to transform their schools into centres of excellence. Over 1.6 million learners at these schools have been the beneficiaries of the generosity of UNICEF, VVOB, Worley Ltd and many other Foundations and Trusts.