Dawn is a rising sun in community

2016-11-15 10:50
Dawn Petersen, principal of Blomvlei Primary School, recently received the Excellence in Primary School Leadership award from the provincial education department.

Dawn Petersen, principal of Blomvlei Primary School, recently received the Excellence in Primary School Leadership award from the provincial education department. (Chevon Booysen )

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Nestled slap bang in the middle of gang territory in Hanover Park, is a school with great potential and a principal doing all she can to take it to greater heights.

To cement her continuous efforts to make her school a great one, Dawn Petersen received the Excellence in Primary School Leadership award for the Metropole South and Metropole Central areas from the provincial education department on Friday 4 November.

Petersen has been at Blomvlei Primary School for nearly a decade and says she wouldn’t have wanted anything different.

“I grew up in Hanover Park but live in Wetton now. But when I saw the opportunity to be a principal at a school in my childhood community, I just had to take it,” she recalls.

Petersen says she has never looked back, despite challenges that came with teaching in the gang-ridden area.

She remains positive while having to deal with crime and gangsterism surrounding her school.

“We are creating a safe space at our school for our children. I have been battling for years to get a bullet reflective fence put up at the school and it was finally erected last year. We want our kids to know that this is a space they can feel comfortable and safe in despite the reality they are faced with every day,” she says.

Petersen has 27 years’ teaching experience and has only ever taught at two schools – the last three of these years spent as principal of Blomvlei. Before Blomvlei she taught at Duneside Primary School in Mitchell’s Plain.

In the motivation for the award, Petersen is described as one “to remain positive while providing clear leadership in directing and guiding the school”.

“The school contends with numerous social challenges such as drug and substance abuse, crime and gangsterism while doing everything in its power to ‘keep the main thing the main thing’ – ensuring quality teaching which is stimulating, fun, well-planned and crucial so that learners are able to learn and teachers are able to teach,” the motivation reads.

Partnering with a tourism organisation, Petersen also ensured the building of a multimillion rand eco-friendly library which is being used to enhance teaching and learning. She is currently looking for funding to employ a librarian next year so that the library can “remain a valuable resource tool for the teachers and learners”.

While People’s Post visited the school, Petersen gave special attention to pupils who needed it most on the day.

“Our reality is that our children are aligning themselves to gangs from an early age. But we cannot give up on our kids, because this is their reality every day. Just today, we had three of our pupils threatened for a fight after school. So now we have to ensure these children get home safe this afternoon. I am eternally grateful for the volunteers in the walking bus project who will now escort these boys home, ensuring their safety. That is our main priority – for our children to get home safe and to be safe,” she says.

Before Petersen’s appointment as principal, the school had nine principals over a period of ten years and was declared “dysfunctional”.

Petersen is passionate about the learners, the community and the school and leads by example to contribute to the school’s morale and ethos, according to the motivation.

Currently the school is planning its annual grandparents’ appreciation day which will be celebrated on Thursday.

“We place a lot of emphasis on showing appreciation for our pupils and staff with small awards for things they do just to show them they are appreciated. The grandparents’ appreciation day is an extension of that. We treat the grandparents who take care of children who have either been abandoned by their parents or whose parents are drug addicts or imprisoned,” Petersen explains.

“We take the time to say thank you to them for taking up the baton to take care of their grandchildren. This initiative has survived solely on the goodwill of individuals who donate goods to make the day successful,” she says.

Petersen says they still need donations to make the day successful.

If you would like to donate goods for the upcoming grandparents’ appreciation day at Blomvlei Primary School, contact the school on 021 692 1377 or blomvlei­ps@­gmail.­com.


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