Unako is a youth-led and managed organisation that was established in 2011 and registered as a non-profit organization in 2013 in response to the increasing inequality in the provision and access to basic education to the large majority of the school going population in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan.
We see education as a social practice that is embedded in and influenced by various factors within a social contexts such as those emerging from sociocultural dissonances, sociopolitical arrangements and socioeconomic disparities. These arrangements, dissonances and disparities are woven together thus giving meaning to societies as contexts. These factors determine the nature of access and quality in every school. Therefore in our view it is important to build a strong communities (as indispensable relations to learning) that will enrich our schools; while also recognizing school development as an essential part of community development.
In terms of problematizing we’ve found that managerial and skills based approaches tend to blame principals and teachers (together with their trainers) while ignoring the social contexts within which learning takes place. They often envision schools as factories that work on mechanical processes such as those encapsulated with Paulo Freire’s banking model. Further, they abstract learning from the conditions of the learners assuming optimum conditions. A systems based approach is important especially when working in South African township contexts where certain locations due to historical racial and class oppression remain underdeveloped and thus policy and the constitutional rights are, due to depreciations in forms of capital, socially and economically unenforceable.
In light of this we have identified the following as the main challenges with regards to low literacy levels in schools: the language question, pedagogies and culture of learning, parental participation, service delivery and school under-resourcing. All these are a result of the sociopolitical arrangements, sociocultural dissonances and socioeconomic disparities at play.
Thus our theory of change emerges from a need to not only mitigate the effects of these arrangements, dissonances and disparities but also to invent and design networks that will support and maintain our interventions – thus building communities by building the learners.
Due to the evolving nature of community development work we’ll invest time in conducting research. The knowledge that is sourced is ploughed back into the design and implementation of our programmes in order that they remain relevant, community-focused and appropriate.