Striving to be best at giving second chances

TAURIQ HASSEN

Everybody deserves a second chance in life, even Salt River’s second chance school, which started a new chapter when they re-branded the school last week.

Now known as the Basic Education and Skills Training (B.E.S.T) Centre, it provides education to marginalised young people who have fallen behind or battle to cope in the mainstream education system.

B.E.S.T College, based in Durham Avenue, also used their re-branding event to showcase the school’s success stories, also highlighting the need for such a school in the community.

Principal of B.E.S.T College, Mark Solomon, said: “We have come a long way over the past 17 years. Our school launched in 1999 with only four learners registered. We were based in a welded shipping container and only had one permanent staff member. Now we have over 160 learners registered every year and can be proud of our eleven enthusiastic teachers. This has been made possible through the help of Cape Youth Care, our board of directors and all the sponsors who have supported us over the years.”

Established in 1999, under the auspices of Cape Youth Care, the school’s methodology is an adaption of the Department of Higher Education ABET (adult basic education and training) curriculum which has been customised to suit the pupils’ needs. On completion of Level 4, successful pupils receive a recognised accredited GETC (General Education and Training Certificate) certificate (equivalent to Grade 9). From here they often go on to complete their studies at FET (Further Education and Training) colleges.

Richard Haridien and Chris Smith, social worker and director respectively, of Cape Youth Care, realised the need to establish a school that could meet the needs of the boys they care for.

During this time it became increasingly difficult to enrol their pupils into mainstream schools and so with the help of the CYC management committee, the B.E.S.T Centre opened. When the school first opened, the building was made of two welded shipping containers and there were only a handful of permanent staff members who were able to keep the initiative going at the time.

The school has since grown from four pupils, one of whom dropped out mid-year, to now educating over 150 pupils a year at their new residence, the Wesley Training College.

“The school saw the need to rebrand from B.E.S.T Centre to B.E.S.T College as the name is more representative of what the school offers – education, not rehabilitation,” Mr Solomon said.

Augustine Edgare from Salt River, who started at the then B.E.S.T Centre in 2008, finishing at the end of 2011, gave the school “10 out of 10”.

“There were a lot of things I liked about the school, like the code of conduct, the way the school itself was designed, the class size and, the teachers and their style of teaching,” he said.

“The environment gave me room for improvement and the freedom to shape my mind. If I could scale my impression, I would say; 10 out of 10.”

After Mr Edgare completed his time at the centre, he was then sent to an organisation called Impact Direct Ministries. Today, he serves as a life skills facilitator at RLabs and is a self-employed entrepreneur at the Genesis Recording Studio.

“The school has had a great impact on my life. Without the school, with its education and the help of the teachers, I don’t know how my life would have turned out. There is so much I could say, but for now, the school shaped me into a mature man, to pursue a journey of education, to achieve my dreams and hopes,” Mr Edgare said.

Mr Solomon, together with his team, said they aim to expand to include Grade 10 in 2017, which will give pupils an even better chance at completing a tertiary qualification.

“However, it will require additional resources, which will require additional funding. The school would like to call on the public to get in touch with them to enquire how they can contribute to this development,” Mr Solomon said.

Ncedo Gomba from Khayelitsha was living at a children’s home when he joined the B.E.S.T Centre in 2009. When he started in Level 2, he was struggling with reading and writing.

“The centre helped me to read and write and to set goals for myself. I completed my Level 4 in 2011 and although I was not successful academically, I was equipped to handle any challenge that came my way,” he said.

He is currently living in Thailand, “living my dream” as a Muay Thai fighter.

“I have won many titles and I would like to come back to South Africa to help kids to achieve what I have achieved. My proudest moments are when I represented South Africa in competitions. My achievements were made possible by the people that played a role in my life; these include the teachers at the B.E.S.T Centre,” Mr Gomba said.

Allan Clarke from Manenberg faced a number of challenges during his teens, which resulted in hom not completing his schooling, but in 2007, he enrolled as a Level 1 pupil at the B.E.S.T Centre. “Having missed out on formal education because of my personal challenges, I found myself not being able to read and write .The B.E.S.T Centre created an environment that allowed me to experience a sense of belonging. At B.E.S.T Centre I was among other youth who had the same challenges as me. B.E.S.T Centre taught me to read through a programme called TOE by TOE. This programme focused on individual needs and equipped me with reading skills. I feel very privileged and grateful that I was allowed to study at B.E.S.T Centre,” he said.

After completing his Level 4 in 2010, he left with skills that equipped him for life, passing all his learning areas and allowing him to enrol at False Bay College, where he is currently studying tourism. Mr Clarke also works part-time at Abseiling for Africa, assisting tourists with abseiling down Table Mountain.

“B.E.S.T Centre’s educators are committed and hardworking and they always encouraged me to work harder. They are responsible for most of the positive decisions I made and I am grateful and lucky to have had them in my life path,” Mr Clarke said.

Valdi Van Reenen-Le Roux, executive director of the Trauma Centre for Survivors of Violence and Torture, said in order to live a sustainable life, they have to find solutions to the challenges they face in life.

“We are witnessing how one institution with humble beginnings – from a container to a college – identified a particular challenge, created a vision and worked towards making it a reality. Principal Solomon, the board of trustees, staff members, parents and learners, the Trauma Centre applauds you for the sheer tenacity that accompanies such a vision,” says Ms Van Reenen-Le Roux.