Nompendulo Ngubane, GroundUp
Pietermaritzburg - Most pupils at Siqongweni Secondary School in Imbali, Pietermaritzburg, have no desks. Some have chairs, others sit on upturned buckets or on the floor. But more than 90% of the school’s matrics passed last year.
With matric pass rates of 95% in 2014, 83% in 2015 and just over 90% in 2016, Siqongweni has been consistent in its results, despite the school’s problems, principal Johannes Dlamini said.
“Last year, we managed to buy chairs for our learners but that is not enough. Chairs are easy to steal and that is why we are trying to raise money to buy desks. It is not easy. One desk costs R850 and it allows two learners per seat. With the 986 enrolments that we have, buying those desks would be close to R 400 000. Where will the money come from?”
After some items were stolen, the school governing body managed to raise money to build a fence around the school property. They raised money for mobile toilets, because the toilets inside the school were broken, did not flush and had no doors.
The school had no hall. For functions the principal had to ask the local ward councillor to hire a community hall.
“It is always a mission. Our request gets approved after numerous attempts. We have no clue why a struggling school is treated in that manner. If it is approved, we have to pay a deposit and pay for using the hall. We don’t have the money but if the function is important we pay the money. Otherwise we host our functions in a school yard,” said Dlamini.
Since they did not have the resources, they worked together and shared what they had.
He said pupils were encouraged to attend extra classes and take part in projects outside the school.
“We sharpen our learners as early as Grade 8, so everyone in Grade 12 deserves to be there and that is why we are raising the flag, regardless of the trials and tribulations,” said Dlamini.
The school had received several awards.
Last year 79% of Grade 8 pupils got through to Grade 9, 85% of Grade 9s got through to Grade 10, 74% of Grade 10s got through to Grade 11, and 70% of Grade 11s got into Grade 12.
Ayanda Sithole, 18, got seven As in matric last year. He said the teachers were the school’s best resource.
“It doesn’t matter which schools learners attend, what matters is what you want, how you are studying.
“I always dream of building my grandmother a big house. That is why I had to study. And I bore in mind that ‘the poorest man is not the one without money, but the one without a dream’ so since I had a dream I wasn’t poor.”
The KwaZulu-Natal education department had no money to fix struggling schools like Siqongweni, spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said.
“We are happy that through those hard conditions they strive to be the best. If the department had billions of rands, such schools wouldn’t exist,” he said.
For the 2016/17 financial year the department had a R45.3 billion budget.