exploring arts education in Cape Town: Ibhabhatane

Today I met up with Colin Stevens, the head of the Ibhabhatane Project at the Frank Joubert Art Centre.  The Frank Joubert Centre is an art school in the heart of Newlands, in the southern suburbs of Cape Town. In addition to providing art lessons to children from the surrounding areas, the centre also runs the Ibhabhatane Project, an NGO which provides education to resource-constrained teachers and learners from areas in the greater Cape Town area.

After discovering that very few teachers had the necessary skills to teach visual arts FJAC headed the Ibhabhatane project (which means “butterfly”) in 1998, in a pilot program with two disadvantaged primary schools.  The program initially started out as a means to train teachers in the arts as a part of the new OBE curriculum (where Arts and Cultures was established as one of the eight compulsory learning areas*) it has since grown to include a wide array offerings.

Over the last 15 years Ibhabhatane, which is financially independent of the Western Cape Education Department, has grown to include a stable art education for primary and high school learners.  For this reason, gifted students who do not have art as a subject at their schools, can take the subject from the centre.  Gifted students pay a nominal fee to attend classes, but are mostly supported through scholarships and travel grants.  Colin contends that each afternoon eight busses, from various locations including the surrounding townships and council estates, arrive at the school for art lessons (for grade R – 9 teachers and their students).  Older students can attend classes in subjects such photography, drawing, painting, sculpture, visual communication, spatial design and textiles. Preparing learners for potential careers in anything from graphic design, architecture, fine arts, jewellery or product design.  Currently, 189 grade 10 to grade 12  learners are regularly attending (meaning 3 times or more a week) the centre for classes.

Yet, Colin laments the lack of a digital component to their classes. He admits that very few of the Ibhabhatane learners have any form of access to computers and therefore feels that it would take a tremendous amount of time to cultivate this literacy in order to use it in any beneficial capacity. However, he tells of a thriving mobile phone presence.  Similar to my personal findings in Kayamandi in 2008, and Ocean View in 2011/12 children take advantage of a “safe” passage to an affluent area where they can use their mobile phones freely without the threat of theft or harassment.

Colin encourages the use of mobile phones for documenting work, sharing these images with friends and family, and so-doing, archiving these for future consideration. Colin: “I mean these learners have very very little, but the mobile phones are marvelous. They have cameras, and internet capabilities, and the Mxit, and the Facebook.”  Colin is also excited at the prospect of leveraging mobile phones for their portable lesson booklets. A mode of giving the teachers they train a pocket sized instruction manual for some of the arts and craft lesson handled at the centre. These are intended for the younger students, and translating these to mobile might mean increased longevity, and a more appealing twist for teen users who are glued to their phones.

Teachers' project booklet

Teachers’ project booklet

Elsewise, Colin has introduced me to the head of “The garden boys”, a collective of current and past students who are set to exhibit at Kirstenbosch in the near future.  They are in the process of punting their show, and Colin feels this could be a valuable group to study for my research, as much of their ecology centres around the mobile phone (often including the sourcing of visual references).

I was also introduced to Mariette, who teaches high school art to grade 10, 11 and 12s. She is in the process of researching ways of producing stop motion videos of the creative process on mobile phones with her grade 11 group for their term project.  I intend on introducing the Com-Me software to her next week as a way of showing the students this way of portfolio representation.

*This has manifested in specific art and culture focus schools in the western cape, which currently are: Alexander Sinton (Athlone), Chris Hani (Khayelitsha), Eerste Rivier High School, Belhar Secondary, Cedar (Mitchells Plain), South Peninsula High School (Diep River), Wynberg Secondary School, Worcester Secondary, George High School, Schoonspruit Secondary (Malmesbury)

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