Supporting children into education since 2010

Misty Meadows School Visit in March 2024

The trustees are happy that our long-term volunteer and sponsor Emma Greenaway spent a few days visiting one of our partner schools, Misty Meadows in KwazuluNatal. We are so grateful to the Headteacher Cassie Janisch for hosting Emma and to the children and teachers for letting Emma have a glimpse into their lives. Cassie writes: 

“In March we welcomed Emma Greenaway to Misty Meadows as a representative from The Zoe Trust. Emma came to meet our Zoe Trust sponsored children: Sisi, Nthabi, Njabulo, Xolo and Praise, as well as to see what we have been up to with the wonderful infrastructure funding we recently received from The Zoe Trust. Emma immediately endeared herself to all of us with her warmth and enthusiasm, as well as her interest in, and support of, what we are doing at Misty Meadows. We so appreciated Emma’s teaching experience and input and advice into some of the challenges that we face as a school, including things like integrating different abilities and language skills into one learning group. One of the highlights for me was going to tea at Lungi’s house with Emma – Lungi particularly wanted to show The Zoe Trust her house and to thank the Trust for all the support for her family over the years (Zoe Trust sponsors two of her children, and has helped her children in many ways over the last decade – transport money, clothes, gymnastics, education trips, etcetera). We really loved having Emma visit us at Misty Meadows.”

Two days at Misty Meadows

by Emma Greenaway

After driving through lush farmland and green rolling hills, I arrived at the school in the searing heat of a March day in Natal. I was greeted by Cassie Janisch, the founder and school Head, stepped and was instantly enveloped in the most loving and caring atmosphere I have ever experienced in any school. Cassie and her colleagues clearly know everything about every child – families, friendships, interests, strengths and quirks. I was introduced to so many children and told so much about them all that my head was reeling. It was a wonderful experience to see the bond that exists among the staff and students.

Over the next two days I was privileged to be able to immerse myself in the life of the school as it unfolds each day; to see children and young people of all ages engaged in learning, to witness some of the challenges faced by staff and students, and just to enjoy both the incredible positive energy and the physical beauty of the surroundings.  

Child-centered education

This nurturing, student-centered approach to educating children doesn’t come without its difficulties. Teachers from formal education settings need to adapt to a different way of working. Balancing the student-led model with the demands of the harder parts of core subjects can lead to students electing not to participate in certain lessons. However, the flexibility of staff at Misty Meadows means that these students can work at their own pace outside the class with another member of staff, thus still keeping them engaged and in school. 

Students at Misty Meadows benefit from a beautiful natural environment, in which much of the learning takes place, and have clean air and space to move around. Being a small, rural school there is limited access to technology and some of the facilities found in larger mainstream schools, with more of an emphasis placed on learning in real world situations and through their own experiences.

Many of the students at Misty Meadows suffer levels of deprivation and come from difficult family situations. For them Misty Meadows offers a supportive environment that enables them to feel secure and supported. Teenagers who in many school settings would end up being excluded, disruptive or just not turning up are given the opportunity in Misty Meadows to express themselves. They can let out their frustrations and burn off extra energy, like bouncing on the trampolines scattered around the school. Because of this, they continue to come to school, and can access the opportunities available to them as and when they are ready to do so.

It is hard to put into words and photos the experience of visiting Misty Meadows as its uniqueness lies in its sense of community, support, and love. My overriding impression from my visit was that I had seen so many happy and confident children and teachers who were passionate about their work. Children who certainly would not have had the same opportunities elsewhere were thriving and it was heartwarming to speak to some of the older teenagers who were excited to talk about their future plans that, without Misty Meadows, probably would not be even a dream for them. 

The new Zoe Trust funded secondary school building

The Zoe Trust funded block was in constant use and provides a versatile, light and airy learning environment for the High School students. The classes I saw involved students working in groups to prepare and deliver presentations on a topic that had been agreed by the class in advance as a weekly activity. All students were engaged in the activity and in delivering the presentations. They were using laptops to assist with the visual aspects of their presentations but would have benefitted from a screen.

Zoe Trust sponsored students

Lungi (next to Cassie) is the mother of Nthabi and Njabulo and works at the school as a teacher of the pre-school children. She has come through TB and all sorts of family problems to save up enough money to buy her own house, pictured here. She entertained us for tea and was so proud. She thanks Zoe Trust for the opportunity that came about for her because of her children being funded to attend Misty Meadows. 

I spent an afternoon with the 5 Zoe Trust sponsored students and was impressed with their eloquence, enthusiasm and confidence. They were all positive about their experience of Misty Meadows. The older students (Nthabi and Sisi in particular) talked about the fact that, in addition to the academic side of school, they learn practical and vocational skills such as entrepreneurship. The morning circle time gives them the opportunity to talk about feelings and they learn how to deal with and resolve conflict and how to overcome problems. 

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