In 2008, the project was founded to heed the marist call "to look at the world through the eyes of a poor child"
Sacred Heart College and the Three2Six Project are Catholic, Marist institutions. This means that they trace their foundations and heritage to the Marist Brothers and that their mission links to that of the international Marist community. The Marist Brothers were founded in France in 1817 by Saint Marcellin Champagnat, who had a passion for educating the most disadvantaged children in his community and ensuring that they knew and felt that they were valued and loved. In 1889, the Marist Brothers opened Sacred Heart College in Johannesburg. It was then known as Marist Brothers Observatory and was a boys school. In 1924, the school moved to its current site on Eckstein Street and in 1980 it amalgamated with two local girls schools to form what we now know as Sacred Heart College, Marist Observatory.
In 2007, members of the international Marist community were challenged to assess whether they were ‘seeing the world through the eyes of a poor child’. When faced with this challenge the Sacred Heart College community made time to critically reflect on whether it was living this call in its current context. Sacred Heart College already possessed a rich history of social action and living the Marist mission to ensure that young people are loved and enabled to reach their full potential.
During the Apartheid era in South Africa, Sacred Heart College and the Marist Brothers who lived there, are well known for their defiance of racial segregation and support for key resistance actors. In 1976, it defied the policy of the day and admitted children of colour into its classes. Despite pressure from local authorities, including intimidating tactics such as the ‘necklacing’ of the school’s statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Sacred Heart College and the Marist Brothers held firm in their beliefs and provided education for some of the most prominent activist families.
When challenged in 2007, Sacred Heart College started a process of dialogue and exploration in its local community to see who and where were the disadvantaged children of the modern day in their neighbourhood. After wide ranging discussions and consultation the answer was clear, the most disadvantaged children in Sacred Heart College’s neighbourhood were refugee and asylum seeker children. These children were (and still are) living in conditions of great poverty and exclusion in the nearby suburbs of Yeoville, Bertrams, Bezhuidenhout Valley, Hillbrow, Berea, Lorentzville, Observatory and Bellevue. These are inner city suburbs which experienced significant urban decay and have been sites of significant xenophobic violence during attacks on foreign residents.
Sacred Heart College soon learned about the challenges facing these children in accessing an education. Xenophobia, resource shortages, pressure on the local education system, difficulty in obtaining identification and immigration documentation and poverty meant that many refugee and asylum seeking children were denied access to local schools, despite the Government of South Africa’s international and domestic commitments to provide access to education for these children. For more information on these challenges, please see our ‘Learn’ pages. And so the Three2Six Refugee Children’s Education Project was developed.
In 2008, the project expanded and opened two new classes on a new campus, hosted by Observatory Girls’ Primary School. In 2016, the project opened a third campus at Holy Family College in Parktown, with a view to offering four classes there by 2018.