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Friday, June 18, 2021

Back to school: Chaos at some schools while others hit the ground running

Thabo Mohlala

The first day of school resembled a mixed bag: some schools were ready while others look like they would still need a couple of days to sort themselves out. Experts say schools that hit the ground running on the first day tend to well at the end of the year.

Inside Education visited some schools randomly around Eldorado Park and Pimville to gauge the level of preparedness of each school. The first stop was at Klipspruit West Secondary, which was a site of racial confrontations between Coloured parents and Black teachers. The situation looked calm from the outside with police within the school premises.

An official who said he was deployed from the district office was stationed at the gate. He said although the situation was normal he was concerned about the late-coming of the learners who could be seen strolled in 15 minutes after the school started at 8am.

The situation looked chaotic at Eldocrest Primary School. Parents could still be seen registering their children and some learners were loitering outside classes. One of the school managers, who didn’t want to mention his name because he is not permitted to speak to the media, blamed the situation on factors beyond their control. “Parents did not heed the department’s call to register online and they only come to do so today. The other main contributing factor is that most parents choose to register their learners here because we are a no-fee school and we also run feeding schemes. So we cater for learners from the impoverished surrounding informal settlements,” she said.

The next stop was at Progressive Comprehensive Secondary School in Pimville Zone 4. The school did not seem to be ready for teaching at all. A sizable number of learners were outside their classrooms and some could be seen carrying orange chairs moving from one classroom to another. In the administration block, parents and learners formed queues to deal with a range of problems they wanted to be sorted out before they start with classes.

One of the teachers said one of the main reasons they could not teach was because they should first “sort” the learners. “We are trying to ensure we get a proper mix of the learners to avoid ethnicity. For instance, in this classroom here, majority of learners are Tsongas and Sothos. We need to dilute that and bring in learners from other tribes. The danger is if you leave it without diversifying them you would end up with one ethnic group in majority and often this breeds tribal tensions and at times fights. Teachers as well would develop negative attitudes towards the class or display favouritism based on those dynamics,” he said. He blamed this on the administrative staff who he thinks can balance the mix early on so that learning can start on the first day.

Wisani and Tshebedisano Primary Schools, also based in Pimville, seemed to have their ducks in the row. The premises were neat and quiet with only the cleaners and some ground staff members going about their chores. Although some teachers were issuing learning materials to learners, teaching was in progress in other classes.

One of the managers of one of the schools said the secret to getting things right on the first day is advance planning. “I didn’t go on holidays and the aim was to precisely prepare for this day. I didn’t just focus on the administrative side of things; I also made sure the yard does not look deserted. I personally cut the grass and trimmed the trees in the yard. Before we closed for December holidays, I made sure we have sorted out issues around time-table, which is very crucial to ensure teaching starts on the first of schooling,” he said.

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