Oversized bags, tiny uniforms and straight to work for Grade Rs of 2019

2019-01-09 11:27
Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schafer chat with the 2019 Grade Rs of Forest Village Leadership Academy. (Jenni Evans, News24)

Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schafer chat with the 2019 Grade Rs of Forest Village Leadership Academy. (Jenni Evans, News24)

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"Have a good day and don't fight with anyone!" said a mum who kissed her tiny son goodbye on his first day of Grade R at the Forest Village Leadership Academy in Eerste River, Cape Town, on Wednesday.

He immediately set to work on a colourful puzzle on his table, concentrating hard as he showed off skills he appeared to have already practised before.

LIVE: 'It's a beautiful day when we start school' - Makhura addresses parents, pupils on first day

Another boy, in his neatly pressed tiny T-shirt and shorts held up a completed colourful creation for his beaming father.

"He does those things at home all the time," said his proud dad.

Parents streamed by car and on foot down Silverleaf drive, toward the vast school built near massive housing projects and a temporary relocation housing site about 35km east of central Cape Town.

Ignoring the "Kiss and Drop Zone" notice at the gate for the big day, the parents and carers strolled in with children and their oversized bags, excited about the first day of school.

Only one wail was heard once the parents had left, as the children busied themselves with the colouring in sheets and activities laid out on their tables.

'You can play with him at break time'


Grade Rs Forest Village Leadership Academy sit in their class. (Jenni Evans, News24)

Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schäfer and Safety and Security MEC Alan Winde sat in tiny chairs and made small talk with the children, asking them if they had friends or relatives in the school already.

"I have a cousin," one little boy told Schäfer, as he chose which colour bead to thread next on to a piece of string.

Another looked longingly at his friend who was sitting in a different cluster of desks. "You can play with him at break time," said his dad reassuringly.

Winde's fine motor skills were tested as a little girl showed him how to thread wool through holes punched into a butterfly's wings.

The school has 29 teachers, plus another three because of donor funding, explained principal Wendy Philander.

"What makes the school different is the additionals [extra teachers], because we are a collaboration school," said Philander.


Forest Village Leadership Academy principal Wendy Philander speaks about the first day for learners. (Jenni Evans, News24)

Collaboration schools received some donor funding and, with a ratio of one teacher to 40 children, this helps make sure each class has a teacher and that the school can afford ongoing teacher coaching and interventions to help pupils and parents.

The school also has a psychologist who works with a large group of parents who need support, in a bright and airy counselling centre stocked with play therapy toys, couches, tables, and a mini-punching bag.

Motivational words are on boards around the quadrangle with its water fountain, but tucked away in a car park is a sign reminding everybody that no drugs or alcohol are permitted at the primary school.


(Jenni Evans, News24)

Estimated 108 000 new Grade 1 pupils in Western Cape

Schäfer said that the department would only know, after a snap survey conducted in 10 days' time, how many children are in school in the province, as many parents had applied to different schools.

An estimated 108 000 children started Grade 1 in the province on Wednesday, and this figure will also be confirmed later in the month.

In the meantime, the department would also investigate claims by some schools that there were not enough teachers.

Also looming is a possible challenge to the department's decision to close Uitzig High School near Ravensmead because it was severely vandalised.

Schäfer said thieves had "literally carried it away" and, with just under 60 pupils left and a 15% pass rate, the department did not feel it could justify the R60m it would cost to fix.

The department was also rolling out its project to introduce isiXhosa as a language at all schools, with 250 schools on board in the province so far. Further funding from national government was required for the resources and teachers to expand that programme.

In the meantime, Philander and a colleague chatted to confirm the time for first break for the new pupils, to have a bathroom break and a little play, before continuing the start of their long journey to matric.

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Read more on:    cape town  |  back to school  |  education

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