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Three2Six: the Sacred Heart story

To look at how a South African school is helping refugee children and teachers.

by James Lamont

Suitable for Key Stage 4/5


To look at how a South African school is helping refugee children and teachers.

Preparation and materials

  • This assembly is sourced from
  • You can download images from this site, especially for Time for reflection.
  • Download some typical African singing (such as Ladysmith Black Mambazo, widely available).


  1. South Africa is officially the richest nation in the African continent, and one of the most powerful. The president of South Africa holds enormous influence over the African Union organization. While it has major social problems, these are nothing compared to those of her neighbours, including the Congo and Zimbabwe, both of whom face political crises and economic collapse. So it is not surprising that South Africa has become a major destination for immigrants and refugees.
  2. In May 2008 major riots erupted across the country against foreigners and refugees. It is estimated that at least 50 people died. A climate of fear exists, since 50 per cent of South African citizens live below the poverty line. As has been the case in Britain recently, economic hardship led to a xenophobic reaction. Many of the poorest South Africans are immigrants, and the famous shanty towns that ring the major cities are packed with foreign nationals.

    Thirty-five per cent of refugee children do not go to school, and are thus being locked into a lifetime of poverty. In a nation where the life expectancy is a mere 42 years, the need for a fresh outlook is great, and has not been greater since the end of the racist apartheid regime in 1996. In many cases where the government has failed, private enterprise is stepping in.
  3. Sacred Heart College is a fee-paying independent school in Johannesburg, the business capital of the nation and one of the areas of greatest inequality. Their approach to the refugee education crisis, the ‘Three2Six School’, takes refugee teachers, who are qualified to teach but lack sufficient experience in South Africa to get a good teaching post, and trains them to teach refugee children who otherwise may not have gained a South African education. Thus the children and teachers benefit in a symbiotic relationship, while also providing refugee children with teachers who have experienced similar hardships to themselves.
  4. After the fee-paying children have gone home at three o’clock, 150 primary children receive free education at the school, and six teachers are gaining valuable teaching experience. Once the primary curriculum is completed, the students will be able to graduate to high school and thus be in good stead to do well in South Africa’s competitive economy, escaping from the poverty that refugees often are mired in.
  5. This is not a solution to South Africa’s social ills, but for those 156 individuals it provides a useful stepping stone. The model is successful and it is being exported to other independent schools across the country.
  6. South Africa hosts over 150,000 refugees and asylum-seekers. Providing for all of them is an immense challenge which can only be achieved through peace in the wider region. As long as there is war in the world there will always be refugees and innocent victims. Small-scale projects such as Three2Six provide a way out of poverty for a few, but without large-scale social and political change in the region, there will always be fewer winners than losers.

Time for reflection

(Play the music as you look at the images.)

As we look at these pictures of refugee children,

give thanks for our homes,

give thanks for our schools,

for our relative security,

for our friends, and those who help us in our lives.

May we never forget the children of the world who live as refugees,

and may we work for the day when war will end

and no children will live without security.



‘When I needed a neighbour’ (Come and Praise, 65)

Publication date: May 2009   (Vol.11 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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