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Bumpy start to school year

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Bumpy start to school year

by Melissa Papier
31 Jan 2007
Peoples Post
Peoples Post

Schools have hardly been open for a full week and vandals have struck again, frustrating teachers and cutting into teaching time.

After returning from the weekend yesterday, teachers and pupils at Heideveld Primary School again had to start their day cleaning up five more classrooms that had been vandalised. All the wiring on educational equipment such as overhead projectors had been cut off, as well as off the stove used for the school's feeding scheme.

The latest incident of vandalism comes after it was vandalised over the holidays. Frustrated teachers have threatened to strike as the situation at the school reaches boiling point. Edgar Wyngaard, principal at the school, says he cannot blame teachers for feeling the way they do.

"The morale of the teachers is low. Every day they prepare themselves for the day, only to be greeted by books that have been urinated on and faeces smeared on the walls," says Wyngaard.

The cost of replacing the equipment runs into thousands of rands, money which the school does not have. The school is still waiting for officials to assess the damage.

Contacted by People's Post, Department of Education spokesperson Gert Witbooi said he was unaware of how slow the process of repairs was going, especially the emergency repairs which needed to be done.

"The matter will be investigated. However, the department can only provide security infrastructure at schools, such as gates, fencing and alarm systems, which are short-term solutions.

"The community needs to take ownership of their school and protect it against vandalism.

"Schools also need to put in a request at the Safer Schools directorate, motivating their needs for security," Witbooi said.

In other areas the school year also started on a bumpy note as local schools grappled with issues ranging from late registrations to the effects of the Department of Education's policy on contract teaching posts.

Officials from the Department of Education visited various schools last week, ironing out issues and finding solutions to problems.

Last week dignitaries from the department were at Manenberg High School, addressing issues such as the general performance of the school, keeping up the teacher-pupil ratios, the general safety of schools and the strategies in place for failing matriculants.

Thurston Brown, principal of the school, said the only problem on the day of opening was the late registration of learners.

"There were several opportunities for parents to register, yet only some complied on those dates. This hampers all planning because the numbers and classes need to be adjusted and the proposed timetable has be changed again, delaying the start of teaching. The pupils are the ones losing out on education," Brown said.

Leonard Ramatlakane, MEC for Community Safety, also visited.

He enquired about the drug problem that faces many schools and asked if any programmes or structures were in place to help scholars who are addicted.

Brown responded by saying that a trained social worker was on hand to give the necessary counselling and addicts were referred to organisations helping those in need.

Brown also warned staff at other schools to be on the lookout for trespassers who deal in drugs at schools.

"Drug dealers use young people who are fully dressed in school uniform to come onto the school premises to sell drugs to pupils," he said.

Ramatlakane said parents should become more involved in their children's lives and become more observant.

"We need to monitor the behaviour of children constantly. They need to be guided in the right direction and this can only be done if the school and parents work together," he said.

Another important point addressed at Manenberg High was the four ad-hoc posts that have been taken away. This has created a shortage of teachers, making teaching more difficult under an increased work load and resulting in teachers not coping.

Brown explained dual medium classes now need to be run. "This is going to be a huge problem, as teachers will now have to teach in one language and then interpret again in the other. This slows down the pace of learning and will definitely have an effect on this year's results and the quality of the passes," he said.

In response, Linda Rose, director of quality assurance in the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), says that to have those posts filled again, the school needs to increase the number of pupils to above 920.

"The way to push this figure up is to look at the marketing of the school in the area, in which achievements and matric results play a huge role," said Rose.

Enver Hassen, acting director of the Education Management District Centre (EMDC) Metropole Central, added that this year could see an increase in the number of matriculants at Manenberg. However, there will not be enough teachers to offer a variety of subject packages.

"This impacts on the quality of the passes. Many will not be able to qualify for an exemption or endorsement," Hassen said.

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