There are 17 Waldorf schools in South Africa, and connected to these are approximately 50 Waldorf early childhood settings – toddler groups (2 to 3s), playgroups (3 to 4s) and kindergartens (4 to 6s). Some of the Waldorf schools are currently involved in initiating birth to three groups. More and more early childhood centers that are already established in the townships (catering for birth to school-going age) are keen to participate in the Waldorf movement. This is realized through teacher training, mentoring, and sharing-gatherings held each term.
Training. Tertiary training for Waldorf teachers takes place at the Centre for Creative Education (CFCE), situated in Cape Town. The CFCE has acquired state accreditation and offers a level 4 and level 5 certificate in early childhood development, a Bachelor of Arts (Dance) in Eurythmy and a Bachelor of Education in primary school teaching. The early childhood training primarily serves teachers in the townships. About 20 early childhood teachers receive certificates each year. The CFCE also offers a Birth to Three course with modular training, workshops and mentoring for those who work with this age group in underprivileged settings. The CFCE receives much-needed funding from local and international supporters. IASWECE is one of the funders that generously sponsors aspects of the training.
There is an urgent need for trained teachers to carry out the mentoring, and a corresponding need for funding.
Looking back and perspectives for the future. The South African Waldorf school movement is at an interesting point in its development. The two founding Waldorf schools have been going for 56 years now, which means the last of the pioneers are moving on and leaving the following generations of teachers to uphold the movement. An increasing number of new teachers are drawn to Waldorf education. One could say that the Waldorf movement is in a phase of consolidation. Educators are striving to bring together the wisdom of the pioneer teachers and merge it with what is calling from the present, forging the movement into one of strength that can work effectively within this country.
Working together. Unlike most countries, we do not have an association specifically for early childhood. Instead, the South African Federation of Waldorf Schools is responsible for all Waldorf education. The Federation Council is urgently addressing the burning issue of state centralisation. By liaising with the various education departments, the right of Waldorf schools to independence has so far been maintained. It is an ongoing fight for the very life of our Waldorf schools, especially in the face of increasingly prescriptive policies for the early years, such as the imposition of an early childhood development curriculum.
Burning questions. The general picture throughout the country is of an ever-widening socio-economic divide, and some of our Waldorf schools operate in very restricted circumstances. It is uncertain whether they would manage without the generous sponsorship that is received from both international and local benefactors.
Violence, including domestic violence, is on the rise and impacts on our schools and children. Waldorf schools provide a haven of tranquility and healing for the abused child, but it is now becoming necessary to employ one or more family counsellors to augment the work of the teachers. The need for remedial therapists, particularly in the early years, is also being felt. Crime is rife; schools cope with vandalism and theft as best they can – from fencing and security guards where affordable, to burglar bars, security gates, and even parents taking turns to sleep over and guard the property.
There are so many challenges in South Africa: it is a blessing that we have a vibrant, positive and growing Waldorf movement to face them. Through ongoing striving, working together and offering a helping hand – many things are possible…
Mary-G. Häuptle, Waldorf kindergarten teacher, trainer and mentor at the CFCE in Cape Town and an IASWECE Council member