NOMALUNGELO Mthiyane, a resident of Moleleki section in Katlehong township could not hide her excitement when Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi and Premier David Makhura handed the state-of-the-art smart school to the community on Monday.
She had attended the school a few years ago and now has her own child about to complete Grade 7 at the school.
She recalls how during her time at the school, it could not accommodate its entire student body.
She and her peers had to be accommodated at a nearby school.
“I am now happy that our children have a beautiful school of their own” said Mthiyane.
There was a buzz around the opening of the school attended by dignitaries including Makhura, Lesufi and Ekurhuleni executive mayor Mzwandile Masina, among others.
Lesufi told community members who attended the event on Monday that the Gauteng government was slowly reversing the legacy of apartheid education by getting children from townships to attend quality schools in their areas, rather than commute to formerly white suburbs to access quality education.
“Our mission is to reverse the Henrik Verwoed legacy of education” said Lesufi, in reference to the former Apartheid prime minister who deemed African children to be deserving of poor education in inferior facilities.
Lesufi said the province is steadily making gains in improving the quality of education although there are still challenges.
Lesufi noted that the province is expecting 120 000 new learners in public schools this week, while next week, Makhura will be exiting 104 000 matriculants from the system.
Lesufi said this shows that the system now retains learners throughout the school career, with falling drop-out rates.
Lesufi however noted that last year about 3000 learners did not come back to school in August after the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic as learners dropped out while other were kept at home by anxious parents.
Lesufi said his department has now dispatched teams to look for the learner and urged parents to release learners back to school.
Makhura welcomed back 2 million learners to Gauteng schools and paid tribute to teachers who helped ensure that the 2020 academic year was completed under difficult conditions.
“We were anxious about the academic year, as we were anxious about the provision of housing healthcare and other services” Makhura said.
Makhura urged the community of Katlehong to look after the property as government will not have capacity to repair the school if it is vandalized.
He said this is because the government faces pressure to provide housing healthcare and other services due to inward migration that Gauteng experiences.
He cited the example of Menzi Primary School, a smart school unveiled in Langaville, Kwa Thema also in Ekurhuleni, in 2018.
The school was opened in January and within a month of its opening was burgled and vandalized, with some of the equipment stolen.
Makhura cited former President’s Nelson Mandela, who observed that through education the child of a mineworker can become a head of the mine, and former ANC President Oliver Tambo who noted that a nation that neglects its youth, neglects its own future.
He noted that the Gauteng government is building smart schools as part of an investment in youth development.
Tasneem Motara, the MEC for Infrastructure Development in the province officially handed over the school to Lesufi.
Motara said the facility, located on 1,1 hectares of land in Moleleki section, Katlehong, took 78 weeks to complete, slightly longer than planned due to challenges such as Covid and stoppages over local participation.
The school represents an investment of R77 million, with 46% spending on local contractors. This is more than the 30% required to be spent on local enterprises
The school was established in 1994 and is named after youth activist Abram Vusimuzi “Buddy” Hlophe.
Hlophe grew up in Katlehong was active in its youth structures such as the Katlehong Student Congress.
He was involved in underground political activities in the 80s and self-defense units in the early 90s and had a strong Leftist-leaning.
He was killed in 1992, at the age of the 23, in the political violence that gripped the area at the time.
Speaking during the unveiling on Monday, his father Jeremiah thanked the Gauteng government for the construction of the school and naming it in his son’s honour.
He said he hopes the school inspires a generation of young people to be inspired to follow their dreams through education.
Makhura and Lesufi expressed confidence ahead of the release of matric results next week, with Lesufi stating that “majority” of Gauteng’s matriculants had passed while Makhura said he expects that Gauteng will be among the top performing provinces.
Makhura said government wants to see bachelor passes and distinctions produced by township schools.
(SOURCE: INSIDE EDUCATION)