Cwesi boosts adult education

The class of 2018 celebrating the 100% pass rate.

A night school for adults, which is run by a retired army major from Edgemead, scored a 100% pass rate last year and is hoping to do the same and change more lives for the better this year.

Joan Williamson started the Constantia Wynberg Education Shared Initiative (CWESI) in her garage in 1983 after she saw the need for adult education.

The school later moved to a Catholic church where Jan de Waal, Wynberg Boys’ High’s then head of department in charge of culture, heard about it and, in 1995, offered Cwesi the use of the school’s classrooms at night.

“It was pretty revolutionary at the time and is possibly the first traditional school to take the plunge into the adult basic literacy field,” said Mr De Waal, who is now headmaster at Wynberg Boys’.

“Cwesi has continued to flourish since then and has grown in numbers, especially once we included the opportunity for students to write Grade 12.

“Our classrooms stand empty at night, so it is logical to
use them for the benefit of the community,” said Mr De Waal.

Cwesi, which is now run by Carl Schmidt, of Edgemead, teaches four nights a week between 6pm and 9pm from classrooms in the school.

And it is free, funded by the Department of Higher Education.

Subjects range from basic literacy equivalent to Grade 9 and five subjects: English, life orientation, travel and tourism, computers, and maths literacy.

Students are taught by Mr Schmidt and two volunteers, Judy Sephton and Geoff Burr.

Of the 66 exam papers written, 33 exam scripts had A symbols and 15 had Bs. The students range in age from 17 to 48 with the oldest now planning to do matric in August.

“She’s not the oldest student we’ve had. There was a 78-year-old man who took English level 4, that’s Grade 9, and passed,” said Mr Schmidt.

“We also had a couple last year who came to us from northern Africa. They could not
read, write, and could barely speak English. They ended up reading a sentence in front of the class. It gives me goosebumps,” said Mr Schmidt.

Having matriculated in Laingsburg, Mr Schmidt started out studying teaching but then joined the military. Later he felt called back to teaching.

However, military service stood in the way and 30 years later he ended up as a major in the SA Defence Force.

But it was a deadly
violin spider that gave him a second bite at life and let him follow his passion.

Now he is a busy man. He teaches art and design at Cape Town Studies Private High School in Table View; extra classes for pupils; art in old age homes, and English classes to foreigners. He also belongs to the Lions.

Mr Schmidt said he could not do it without his wife, LeeAnn, who often joins him while he is teaching.

In whatever spare time he has he paints, mostly with acrylic on canvas, landscapes and the sea.

The couple have a son,
Charl, 23, who coaches swimming and hockey at various schools in the southern suburbs.

“There are lots of good news stories about these students, especially considering where some of them come from. People with a desire to turn their lives around,” he said.

He told the story of a woman who was born into a family who did not believe in educating
their daughter.

She would stand at the window of the local church, and when her aunt died, she took over and conducted the service. She came to Cape Town 18 years ago, fluent in English, Afrikaans and Xhosa but she could not read or write,
until she joined Cwesi. Now her daughter is studying at Rhodes University.

There is a need for more teachers who must be qualified to teach adult education. Mr Schmidt said adult education was a forgotten education.

“What could be better than being able to read to your children,” he said.

Cwesi is a registered community learning centre. Enrolment for 2019 classes ends on Monday February 10.

Contact Carl Schmidt at 071 896 5850 after 3pm, or email ccschmidtsnr@gmail.com for details.