Designing the future

A new initiative between the Western Cape Education Department, leading South African retailer Woolworths, Design Indaba and Sappi.

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When the new Further Education and Training (FET) Design course launches in Western Cape schools in January next year, Grade 10 learners and their teachers will have a brand-new resource guide called "Making the Difference through Design".

The project is being spearheaded by Woolworths and the Education Department and developed in collaboration with Design Indaba, leading South African designers and creative professionals. South African-based paper giant Sappi is sponsoring the paper and a school competition, as well as providing case studies for the guide.

Woolworths, of course, is one of the major sponsors of Design Indaba, and design along with education, is a core focus for the retailer. As Woolworths' Head of Marketing Charmaine Huet explained, it was largely Woolworths' sponsorship of Design Indaba, as well as their ongoing involvement in education through the MySchool initiative, that prompted the Western Cape Education Department to approach them with the project.

"Woolworths believes passionately that the best way to build a better future for South Africa is to empower its future leaders by recognising and developing the potential within each child," she said. "This is why we are part of the MySchool programme, and involved in school-based educational and skills development initiatives like 'Making the Difference Through Design', which is currently helping young learners in hundreds of schools throughout South Africa understand more about various aspects of health and nutrition. 'Making the Difference through Design' is a logical extension of our existing involvement.

"We are both honoured and excited to be able to contribute in this way to education - particularly design education - in South Africa. 'Making the Difference through Design' will not only assist educators in helping learners to express their own creativity, but to appreciate creativity wherever they find it."

Educators, too, were excited at the news of the new resource guide. "This collaboration between the business sector, the design industry and the formal education sector not only emphasises the importance of attracting young learners to a career in design, but also paves the way for establishing the foundations for a creative, innovative and strong South African design industry. The contribution of design to the South African economy - in the formal and informal sectors - cannot be underestimated," said Jenny Rault-Smith, Director of Curriculum Development for the Western Cape Education Department.

Similar reactions were received from educators at grassroots level. "Design has been recognised as vital to the future of South Africa," said Jill Joubert, Principal of the Frank Joubert Art & Design Centre in Newlands. "A comprehensive resource guide - especially one that includes inspirational ideas and real-life case studies from top creative people - will be an invaluable teaching aid. It's been a long time coming," she added.

The consortium has been able to recruit many of the top names in the South African design world - including many Design Indaba alumni - to share their insights and expertise through the new resource guide, which will cover 23 different design disciplines as wide-ranging as advertising, textiles, stained glass, weaving and tapestry, puppetry, jewellery and ceramics, as well as environmental design fields such as architectural design and theatrical set design. Contributors are donating their time.

'Making the Difference through Design' will be piloted at 121 schools in the Western Cape from January 2006 before being rolled out nationally. The pilot programme will be aimed at Grade 10 learners, with the aim of extending to Grades 11 and 12.