An exploratory study of the South African New Era Schools Trust.
The focus of this research is the New Era Schools Trust (N.E.S.T.) system of non-racial, multi-cultural schooling,with its first school Uthongathi as an exemplification of its unique approach. In the theoretical component of the research, a thorough study is made of literature relating to multi-cultural education, with the issues of culture, race and socioeconomic class explored as problematics of central concern to the South African context. Selected strategies are analysed, upon which the possible implementation of multi-cultural education in South Africa might be based. A chapter is included on the the socio-political origins of N.E.S.T. Its birth and infancy are set against background events that have impinged on education in South Africa since World War 11. The empirical section of the research is focused on Uthongathi, as it evolved and developed during the period January 1987 to July 1989. Among the most important findings emanating from the research are the following: 1. New Era Schools Trust was established primarily as a reaction to the historically evolved policy of apartheid, which the originators of the endeavour perceived to be unjust. 2. Central to the endeavour is the creation of school communities that are the antithesis of the present, largely ethnocentric, state educational structures. It is hoped to thereby create a vehicle to aid peaceful evolutionary change as an alternative to the violent and confrontational strategies widely current. 3. Uthongathi propounds (and is guided by) policies of nonracialism, multi-culturalism, and access for pupils of various socio-economic classes and both sexes. 4. Some tension is apparent between the policy of a "balance of races" and the school's egalitarian aims, although the racial balance itself appears to be remarkably effective in practice. An impressive level of social solidarity is evident amongst the pupils. 5. A broad, liberal education is offered. It is focussed on university entrance, and is enriched by a wide variety of extra-mural pursuits. Self-help and a comprehensive community service scheme operate. 6. Despite the absence at the present time of academic results gained through public examinations, upon which objective judgements can be based, it is clear that high academic standards are pursued. A comprehensive academic support programme has been mounted in the lower standards in order to assist those pupils who originate from educationally and economically deprived backgrounds. Bursary support is generous. 7. The N.E.S.T. schooling model appears to be malleable to suit regional needs. It appears to have relevance to future policy directions for state and private schooling alike. The costs and fee structures are, however, likely to limit the extent of extrapolation possible. 8. Tentative suggestions have been made for appropriate action. More accurate judgements on the adoption of N.E.S.T. schooling as a proposed model for South Africa will become possible as the system evolves further to incorporate the four schools initially planned. 9. Recommendations have also been made for further research. There is a great need for selected facets of the N.E.S.T. schools to be researched in greater depth than has been possible in this exploratory study.