The Mangaung String Program
The Mangaung String Program is a string music development program initiated by the Free State Musicon in July 1997 under the directorship of Peter Guy, which targets children from historically disadvantaged backgrounds from various districts within the Free State.
Tuition in Bloemfontein takes place at the Free State Musicon in the afternoons. Tuition is provided by staff members of the Department of Sport, Arts Culture and Recreation, as well as staff from partnering institutions in addition to music students and interns from within the program, as well as hourly tuition based on sponsorship. Each pupil pays a modest fee of R1000 a year. This covers tuition, instruments, repairs, teaching materials and transport. The program operates a bus service, which runs 5 days a week. There are 3 orchestras, based on ability which all use the name Bochabela and practice on Friday afternoons. Bochabela in Tswana means the place where the sun rises. The program currently has over 500 pupils enrolled from 62 different schools. Half of these pupils are from the neglected communities of Thabong (Welkom), Vredefort and Parys all outside of Bloemfontein.
Due to the popularity of the program we have started employing our older learners to help us teach the younger pupils. This has proved immensely successful. The younger children have a difficult concept explained in their mother tongue, they have a role model they can relate to and we get excellent young teachers who grew up in the programme and understand the group and cultural dynamics. Our young teachers receive a substantial confidence boost as well as a stipend to help them make ends meet.
One of the great challenges of Music Development Programmes, is the maintenance, set up and basic repair of string instruments. While the program also has its own in-house instrument repair studio, it is often impractical and too expensive for pupils (nearly 100) in Welkom to send their bows and instruments to Bloemfontein for repairs and adjustments. The establishment of instrument repair technicians throughout the Free State would not only assist in the maintenance of string instruments but establish a base for these young technicians to expand their skill base to more complicated repairs.
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