The Love Trust Extends Its Wings: Nurturing Education and Hope in the Western Cape

The Love Trust Extends Its Wings: Nurturing Education and Hope in the Western Cape

Over a decade ago in the heart of  Thembisa, The Love Trust took root with a fervent commitment to providing high-quality Christian education. They set about achieving this through their established Affiliated Teacher Training Centres (ATTCs) and their Nokuphila School.

The Love Trust’s ATTCs provide tertiary education and training of teachers, more specifically Early Childhood Development (ECD) practitioners and primary school teachers. The thought is to create the biggest possible impact on the wider community by empowering black women to qualify as teachers and become leaders in their communities.

8 March is International Women’s Day, and this year’s theme for the globally celebrated day is to ‘Inspire Inclusion’- according to the International Women’s Day website, when women feel included, it creates a sense of belonging, relevance, and empowerment.

This sentiment aligns perfectly with The Love Trust’s goal to empower entire communities from a grassroots level.

Educating Educators: The Love Trust’s Teacher Training Centres

The Nokuphila Teacher Training Academy (NTTA) is dedicated to the training and advancement of certified (NQF) Level 4 and Level 5 educators specialising in ECD. These educators are specifically prepared to teach Grade 000 and Grade R, respectively. 

Outside of the NTTA, The Love Trust has a reliable network of affiliated ATTCs, that are based countrywide and supported by partners, to also assist their students to attain their (NQF) Level 4 and 5.  The Academy extends its support to Early Childhood Development students currently enrolled at their institution and other ATTCs.

From Gauteng to the Western Cape: The pilot project in Mitchell’s Plain

The Love Trust set to work, establishing their pilot project in the Western Cape, under the careful guidance of The Love Trust’s Western Cape Regional Director, Andrew Barnes. The pilot project officially launched in January 2023 to increase the number of trained and qualified ECD teachers and centres across the Western Cape.

Barnes is a much-loved figure in the area as a Rector at Trinity Church and St. Luke’s in Mitchells Plain, and St Paul’s Church in Lavender Hill. Having been a founder of the Trinity Children’s Centre, Barnes is passionate about education and the life-changing role it can play in the lives of the young people of the Cape Flats.

The effect of having a good early childhood education creates an ongoing thirst for knowledge in young learners and sets them up with a great foundation for their schooling career.

Fast forward to 2024, and it’s clear that a year into the programme, it is well-established and the students are enjoying their learning experience.  The NQF Level 4 section is an 18-month-long programme, and the students will transition straight into NQF Level 5 upon completion of Level 4.

They currently have 20 students who come together every single Thursday, with each of them either volunteering or being employed by a preschool the rest of the week. The Western Cape branch of The Love Trust also has 15 students who are studying in Plettenberg Bay.

Overcoming Challenges to Triumph

Speaking frankly, Barnes says that some of their challenges are unavoidable. Many, if not most, of their students face huge financial constraints, with simple elements like transport to the training being a big expense for them. The Principals who have hired the students need to be on board for their studies, not only to allow them time off to study but to assist them in paying for the course, as accountability is an important part of gaining a tertiary qualification.  

Annette Robertson, their programme facilitator, was terrified when she visited one of the schools and witnessed a criminal run past with a gun in hand. Knowing these children are exposed to these dangers daily is a big driver to keep pushing forward to uplift the area.

Aside from crime and socio-economic difficulties, practical elements like space are problematic for the programme, and renting space has been challenging as they require their own set space, preferably a classroom, that is theirs to use every day. Robertson needs a space where she can demonstrate what a preschool class should look like, without the time wasted setting up and packing away each week. There is a prefab classroom that the Trinity Children’s Centre has designated for their use but expertise is required to dismantle and rebuild it in Rocklands, Mitchells Plain. 

Beyond facilitation, site visits and other challenges, a need for increased funding remains a constant. The Love Trust has recently employed a Donor Liaison Administrator, Charissa Hey, dedicated to the task of fundraising in the Western Cape. With such fierce competition in the educational space, efforts have been doubled to ensure they continue the growth of this programme in line with their projected trajectory.

Faces of Promise: Students Making a Difference

Two students who stand out for their dedication and enthusiasm for teaching are Nickola Johnson and Feroza Davids. Excitedly talking about submitting their proof of evidence to the teaching-training centre for assessment, the ladies are halfway through becoming fully qualified ECD teachers.

Johnson owns and works in her small school which she runs alongside an assistant. Having owned her school since 2007, she says this course will give her the confidence and qualifications she needs to grow her school. Her preschool is registered with the Social Development Department in the Western Cape, and completing this course is a requirement of the course. Further to this, qualifying will put her in the position to apply for government funding. She does not doubt that the course will make her more marketable, as parents want a qualified teacher to look after their children.

Davids works at her sister’s larger established ECD in Mitchell’s Plain, caring for approximately 40 young children between six teachers. Her sister is already qualified and the school takes in children between the ages of six months and five years.

The Mitchells Plain ECD Forum is a gathering for practitioners, generally the principals of ECD institutions, who meet monthly. These forums are great places for information to filter through the community with approximately 200 members and a focus on ECD.

It was through this forum that they heard about the pilot and were selected to do their Level 4. Both teachers dream of starting or in Johnson’s case growing, their successful ECDs. This dream now seems viable with the support they have from The Love Trust.

Nickola Johnson in action

Future Aspirations and Growth

Barnes has put his heart and soul into the success of this project and says that the real heroine is the learning facilitator Annette Robertson whose incredible dedication has been instrumental to the pilot project’s success.

Some of his hopes for the future include creating a strong alumni programme and creating the perfect space in which both the facilitators and students can thrive. He would like to see a continual rotation of about 20 students meeting four days a week, with 80 studying at any time. Ideally, Barnes would love to have a designated person to visit alumni and assess the ongoing work being done. Ultimately, he wants to enhance mentorship opportunities and create a supportive network of knowledge.

The goal is not only to train teachers but to empower them to run their own ECD centres. This invaluable initiative not only addresses the critical need for skilled educators but also champions the cause of gender equality. As we observe International Women’s Day, it is crucial to celebrate the strides made in breaking barriers and fostering opportunities for women. The Love Trust’s commitment to nurturing the talents of female educators reflects a dedication to creating a more inclusive society.