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The Evolution Of The Nokuphila’s Schools’ Music Programme

  • 6 min read

Creating lasting change through inspired music lessons

On 18  May 2022 the pilot for the recorder music programme was launched at The Love Trust’s Nokuphila School in Midrand. The programme was initiated by South African musician and composer Roland Moses, along with his wife Lynne Moses, who were put into contact with The Love Trust by Mercy Ministries, an initiative of Christ Church in Midrand, where they are members. 

As well as being a successful musician, Moses is an advocate for education and works at the Tshwane University of Technology, as Head of their Jazz and Popular Music department. The purchase of instruments for the Nokuphila recorder programme is funded through the sale of Moses’ musical album, Paths of Light. And as Moses is a Yamaha endorsed artist, the organisation has been on board since the programme’s inception, assisting with instruments and staff training.  

Largely self-taught to play piano for his local church in Phoenix, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Moses has a vision to create change through formal music education for children from marginalised communities.

The recorder programme launch

After conducting research on the most sustainable teaching methods and instruments, the recorder programme was launched with Yamaha teaching all the staff members the recorder in 2021. Teaching the educators how to play the recorder allowed them to get to grips with the instrument, making it easier for them to impart the musical skills to their learners.

In May 2022 the pilot programme was officially launched with the first class of Grade 3 learners and two teachers. This year, the pilot group of learners has progressed to Grade 4 having successfully mastered their recorder skills. This initial group is making continual progress, and was recently introduced to the Yamaha Electronic Keyboard programme, while the Grade 3 group starts the recorder programme.

Further to these two grades, the programme has grown immensely from inception to now includes two additional mixed grade recorder groups, formed by the head of Nokuphila’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) department, in a bid to include older learners eager to learn. 

The inspirational growth of the programme has been further accelerated by Lynne Moses’ successful application for funding from her employer, FirstRand Bank.  Through ‘Unsung Heroes’, a CSI initiative in which FirstRand Bank employees have the opportunity to apply for funding to support schools or charitable organisations. Lynne’s application was successful which allowed for the recent purchase of the Clavinova, a digital piano. In addition the funding will see the music programme through this year, as well as the next.

The educational and psychosocial benefits

For underprivileged children that haven’t previously had access to instruments or music lessons, the benefits are multi-faceted, affecting their STEM skill-set, providing an emotional outlet and helping to address psychosocial factors.

According to the Principal at the Nokuphila School, Mabel Sikhakhane, the recorder programme has helped the learners to improve their fine motor skills. Additionally, it has assisted them to learn terminology and patterns that enhance their understanding of mathematical concepts.

Developing their musical skills helps to improve their use of language, and the ability to relate this back to English, History, and different cultures. The educators have also seen an improvement in the learner’s aural skills, as the listening skills required in the programme help build up their inner ear hearing, which helps them in every aspect of learning.

From an emotional point of view, the learners have gained great confidence, with improved levels of self-esteem. The teamwork skills learnt are invaluable, along with the social etiquette learnt from the turn-taking exercises practised in class. Sikhakhane says that the biggest benefit of all is the joy that the recorder programme has brought to the children. They are happy and motivated, willing and excited to learn a new skill.

Impressive growth

Older learners not included in the initial pilot programme expressed such an interest in learning the recorder that a music group was formed for learners in the intermediate phase. This programme has become a fixture in their extramural programme and is reflective of the initial vision for the programme, that the recorder would simply be an entry point to the world of music.

The fact that the Nokuphila Arts and Culture department has experienced such admirable growth is indicative of them prioritising development in this area. This is showcased by their determination to get the learners involved in the programme from as young as Grade R, with teacher Julia Chiroodza taking the recorder programme across the pre-school this year.

Looking forward  

When asked if the programme has grown in line with his initial vision, Moses is excited about the programme’s development, commenting that he sees a lot of himself in the young learners, saying, “That was me at school. I may not have had access to many resources, but I always loved music and performing.”

Considering the impressive uptake at the school, Moses says that he would love to see it becoming a central hub for aspiring musicians in the surrounding Thembisa community.

Considering the current challenges that musical education in public schools are facing with the combination of STEM subjects being prioritised and a lack of available resources, the work being done through The Love Trust to promote formal musical education at the Nokuphila School is of the utmost importance.

Beyond music

Lynne has also supported the Nokuphila School through educational endeavours like book drives and more recently, teamed up with local company, She PowHer, to provide the Grade 6 and 7 female learners menstrual cups.

From left: Matshoene Tladi (Head of STEM), Eustace Wilken (Yamaha Product Manager), Lynne and Roland Moses, Dorothy Mabena, Abigail Musvosve (Grade 3 teachers), Mabel Sikhakhane (Principal at the Nokuphila School) and Silas Pillay (Director of Academics) at the handing over of recorders and electronic keyboards.

This was done in a bid to ensure they never have to miss school due to a lack of access to sanitary pads, a large cause for absenteeism of female learners in South Africa. Lynne ensured the learners and female staff at the school all received training and guidelines around usage, and managed to secure menstrual cups that can be used for 10 years.

It is amazing to see what can transpire when compassion, education and art collide, for the greater good.

It is through the support of change-makers and generous donors that The Love Trust is able to continue transforming lives with their work in delivering quality Christian education to learners from disadvantaged communities.