Grade 1s scream, laugh, run away

2016-01-13 12:55
A parent in Pretoria consoles his son on his first day of big school. (Karabo Ngoepe, News24)

A parent in Pretoria consoles his son on his first day of big school. (Karabo Ngoepe, News24)

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Johannesburg - Some embraced it, others desperately hung on to their parents, or tried to make a run for it on the first day of school on Wednesday.  

At the Intshinga Primary School in Gugulethu, Cape Town, a Grade 1 pupil came close to escaping, but his efforts were thwarted within reach of the front gate.

Inside, parents offered bribes while teachers jokingly threatened to call the police to deal with crying pupils, some of whom clung desperately to parents and grandparents.

Misiwe Mnyakeni, 57, was dropping off her grandson Akhile Jiya, 6, who balked at entering a classroom.

"He knows this is not crèche and he was fine all the way here. I think he thought his mother was going to drop him off, but she is taking the older child to high school. He will get used to it," Mnyakeni said, begging her grandson to give school a chance.

Big backpacks

At Tamboerskloof Primary School, also in Cape Town, there was a sense of excitement. Most of the 6 and 7-year-olds spent their time posing for photos and exploring the playground.

Chloe Nikiforos, 6, with a backpack almost as big as her, walked slowly with her mother and sister to the gates. They carried plastic bags filled with paper, toilet paper, and stationery.

Her mother Karen said her third daughter had already tried on her blue and white checked school dress a few times.

“She’s pretty excited. She’s been ready for a few days."

          There were a lot of years at the Intshinga Primary school in Gugulethu. (Thulani Gqirana, News24)

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, Gauteng Premier David Makhura, Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi and Infrastructure Development MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza attended the opening of the new R92.9m Chief Albert Luthuli Primary School in Daveyton, on the East Rand.

Children there seemed overjoyed to be part of the official government opening of their school.

‘He didn’t want to let go of my hand’

Daveyton made news in September last year when three teenagers were necklaced, allegedly for being part of a prominent gang in Etwatwa called the OVL (One Vision Lover). Locals were apparently fed up with the gang members’ involvement in violent crime and a lack of police action.

In Mamelodi, Pretoria, teachers and parents dragged tearful Grade 1's into class at the Balebogeng Primary School.

Many children wailed as parents battled to maintain their composure. But friendships were also being created as pupils consoled one another.

"We spoke about the day and I informed him that he must not cry. He agreed, but when he saw others crying, he too started. He didn't want to let go of my hand," said a mother who did not want to be named.

15 teachers stay away from Roodepoort school

On Tuesday, Lesufi announced that 15 black teachers at the Roodepoort Primary School, on Gauteng’s West Rand, would not return to their posts as they did not feel comfortable there.

One of the parents said on Wednesday morning that the 15 teachers had stayed away.

“I really don’t understand why they feel threatened, because nobody has any problems with them.

“There are two other black teachers and they aren’t experiencing any problems,” said the woman, who asked not to be named.

The school was closed several times last year, including for a stretch of nearly a month. Parents and residents had claimed the appointment of the principal and her two deputies was irregular.  There were allegations that some parents did not want the principal because she was black.

The school was in a largely coloured area.

The dispute resulted in several violent clashes between residents and police. In one incident a petrol bomb was thrown at a deputy principal's car, and in another, a parent allegedly brought a gun onto the school premises.

Parents’ excitement and nerves

At Clarence Primary School in Durban, Slondiwe Malinga said she was “extremely nervous” for her daughter Unathi Ngcobo.

“I think that I am far more nervous than she is. I just feel like I am going to die without my little one. I am also happy that she is attending though.”

“Look at Unathi, she is not nervous at all," said her father Siyabonga Ngcobo.

"She is like me. She has a few friends here and she is a strong child. She will be fine.”

At the Livingstone Primary School, a short-term remedial school in Morningside, Durban, excited parents helped their little ones settle in.

Paula MacDonald, 36, sat on a small chair reserved for her son, Joseph, 6, while she unpacked his stationery.

"I am very excited for him, it is going to be a great year for him. He didn’t sleep. He woke up very early because he was so excited," said the Cowies Hill mother.

    Paula helps her son Joseph, 6, settle in at Livingstone Primary School in Durban. (Amanda Khoza, News24)

At the Universitas Primary School in Bloemfontein, an ambitious Grade 1 pupil had already decided on her career.

"I want to be a kids' doctor when I grow up, because I don't like seeing kids getting sick," said 6-year-old Tshego Moalosi.


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