Little school in Thaba Nchu has big lessons to teach SA

2012-05-26 17:28

Long after the school day has ended, pupils at Ramahutse Primary School in Thubisi Village, near Thaba Nchu, are still hard at work.

They have few chairs and tables, and no workbooks or stationery.

They have created their own small chalk boards by painting old tomato boxes black.

They balance the boxes on their knees and write carefully with colourful chalk.

Ramahutse boasts a 79% pass rate – and, says principal Tikane Mokhoenyane, the attendance rate is phenomenal.

“It can be freezing cold, blazing hot or raining, but these kids will come to school,” says Mokhoenyane.

There are four teachers at the school. Because they have to handle multiple grades in a single class – Ramahutse is a multigrade school – they often can’t finish their daily work.

That doesn’t deter the teachers or their pupils, though. They simply stay later and work well into the afternoon.

“We even fit in some Saturday classes,” he says.

The average trip to school for a pupil is about 4km, on foot, from the nearest village.

Mokhoenyane says his pupils come from poor villages and their parents can’t always afford to make a contribution. But that doesn’t stop the staff.

One teacher, Marisa Vermeulen, says she uses only white chalk because the partially sighted pupils in her class struggle to see other colours on the main chalk board.

That leaves her with lots of spare chalk in a range of colours.

She and some pupils went to the local fresh produce market, collected used tomato boxes and painted them black.

“Now the smaller kids can use their little blackboards to practise their writing,” she says.

They’ve even made their own educational posters, recycling cardboard to produce them.

Jonathan Snyman, a researcher at the SA Institute of Race Relations, says this is exactly what the country’s schools need: passionate teachers who use the resources at their disposal.

Information in the institute’s recently published South Africa Survey reveals that government’s spending on education is not yielding the same results as in other developing countries.

Snyman says the department’s focus should be on strengthening the quality of teaching, and the commitment from teachers and principals.

Of particular concern in the Free State, the Northern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal is the low number of children – more than two-thirds in each province – who do not attend early childhood development centres.

These centres, Snyman says, are crucial to help children develop early learning skills – something the youngsters studiously bent over their tomato boxes in Ramahutse’s classrooms can personally attest to.

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