Rural Eastern Cape school beats the odds to get ready for Covid-19 despite limited resources

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Nyanga High School in rural Eastern Cape. (Twitter, Nyanga High School)
Nyanga High School in rural Eastern Cape. (Twitter, Nyanga High School)
  • An Eastern Cape boarding school with financial challenges has used its limited budget to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) for its Grade 12 pupils.
  • The Department of Education only managed to deliver 44 PPE for teachers.
  • Teaching and learning is in full swing at the Ngcobo-based school despite many rural schools remaining shut after the education department failed to deliver the crucial kits. 

A well-managed rural Eastern Cape boarding school, which continuously produces top matric achievers despite limited resources, continues to punch above its weight.

This time, Nyanga High School in Ngcobo is putting up a brave fight against the Covid-19 pandemic by ensuring all its 209 Grade 12 pupils have personal protective equipment (PPE) and are in class learning.   

The school is functional despite the Eastern Cape Department of Education failing to deliver the crucial kits to it and many others. 

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga was forced to reconsider the date of the reopening from 1 to 8 June to ensure all schools receive their PPEs, announcing the change at the eleventh hour on Sunday evening.

While many rural schools remain closed, Nyanga's principal, Khulile Qamata, said learning was in full swing at his school after it purchased the PPE, which included face shields and surgical masks, from its own budget.

The current regulations allow schools, which are ready to welcome pupils, to proceed from 1 June, at least according to the most recent gazette.

This could be the subject of a court challenge by the South African Human Rights Commission soon.

Many schools were caught flat-footed after the Department of Education failed to deliver PPE in the province.

But vigilant principals like Qamata and Stirling Primary School headmaster Peter Johnson ordered the kits in case of any eventuality.

Johnson said all his 100 Grade 7 pupils were in class but did not want to "put my school in the spotlight" by commenting further. "All I want is for my pupils to be in class and learn."

When the News24 visited the campus in Stirling, East London, on Monday, we were met by friendly teachers at the gate and a welcome back sign with balloons.

The school was well-prepared with a sanitising desk at the gate.

Qamata said he was glad he went ahead with a Plan B as the department had only delivered PPE for 30 Grade 12 teachers.

Over the past 10 years, Nyanga has been producing matric pass rates of between 82% and 96%.

Qamata said: "We annually have learners who are called for the Provincial Top Achievers' Awards and in 2018 [Avukile Nkayi] and 2019 [Lomso Dumezweni] also participated in the national awards. Participation in the national awards is going to be an annual activity."

Schools across the country were closed on 27 March after President Cyril Ramaphosa introduced a hard lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19.  

READ | Lockdown Level 3: Children should return to school immediately, says SA Paediatric Association

Qamata explained how his school beat the odds: "When the minister first announced schools will be opened on the 1st June 2020, we started with the planning.

"Our planning involved having joint meetings on Monday with the school governing body and school management team followed by Tuesday meetings for educators and a Wednesday meetings for support staff.

"In all the meetings, we unpacked Covid-19 using a professional presentation penned by Dr Fundile Nyati. We discussed how we must change the behaviour as the school community - which is our only main response to the pandemic."

The school has a sanitiser booth and purchased 75 litres of sanitiser, 10 thermometers with batteries and surgical masks.

Qamata said the booth was donated by a catering company that works at the school.

He added the school had 1 050 pupils and 44 teachers, with seven of the 14 teachers currently not having classes being on the Covid-19 school committee.

Qamata said other grades were receiving distance learning. "We are facilitating the preparation of notes as pamphlets for the lower grades that they can use while still at home."

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