People's Post

'Now on to number one!': School in Pinelands targets global recognition

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Pinelands North Primary School learners were jubilant on hearing the news that their school had been nominated among the finalists in the World’s Best School Prize for Overcoming Adversity. PHOTO: Supplied
Pinelands North Primary School learners were jubilant on hearing the news that their school had been nominated among the finalists in the World’s Best School Prize for Overcoming Adversity. PHOTO: Supplied

“Now on to number one!”

Cheers and applause met Pinelands North Primary School principal Ann Morton’s words as learners got ready to leave the special assembly called on Thursday 22 September.

Parents and learners were invited to attend and participate “in celebrating our community” that morning, but the real reason for the meeting was to be revealed when Premier Alan Winde shared, via video link, that the school had been nominated among the Top three finalists in the World’s Best School Prize for Overcoming Adversity.

News that Pinelands North, together with West End Primary in Mitchell’s Plain, made the global competition’s Top 10 shortlist broke in June (“School ‘shows the way’”, People’s Post, 14 June).

On hearing the latest announcement, learners, teachers and even a few parents promptly broke out in a jig. Arguably, nobody could have been more excited than Morton who said that, with all the adversity South Africa is overcoming currently, the nomination was such good news for South African education.

“This whole community of parents, children and staff has worked for years to create this positive learning environment. We all have special needs at different times in our lives, so let’s celebrate who we really are and how we can change the world, one person at a time,” she said.

Since Morton took up the role of principal in 1997, Pinelands North has established itself as one of the country’s leading institutions when it comes to fostering inclusivity in education.

The school’s ethos centres on building relationships within the school’s community and breaking down barriers. All learners, male or female, wear the same uniforms. The school has brought in gender-neutral bathrooms and everyone, including teachers, is addressed by their first name. From Grade two, learners are taught sign language.

Addressing the learners on Thursday, Morton said overcoming adversity was not only about each one of the learners in their own little space, getting to be a better person in a better place.

“At Pinelands North, it’s also about all of us helping each other do that. So each one of us supports the next person to be a little bit happier, a little bit kinder. So the whole world is a much kinder place.”

She said another important thing to remember was all the people who went before them to create this circumstance.

“But also what about all those other children in all the other schools around South Africa who might not have a hall like us, who might not have a microphone like this, who might not have the privilege of speaking online so they can be part of a competition? And so when we celebrate our Jig for Joy, we do need to remember about all those other children in South Africa,” said Morton.

Calling Pinelands North “a shining example”, Winde congratulated the school on their nomination, saying the Western Cape government was proud of all their schools, learners and teachers, the professionalism and “gees”.

“Pinelands North is blazing a trail in delivering quality, inclusivity and that feeling of hope we all aspire to, and I am very proud that we can call them a part of ‘Team Western Cape’,” said Winde.

Provincial Minister of Education David Maynier said the school’s inclusive environment, and recognition of their learners’ unique needs and potential, caught the attention of the T4 Education judges.

“They have competed against schools in countries around the world, and have made it to the very last stage,” he said. Maynier also congratulated West End Primary School for making the Top 10 in the category.

“While they are not in the Top three, we recognise them as a school that is truly showing what it means to reach out to their community. We can all learn from the example West End is setting,” he said.

The World’s Best School Prizes was launched this year by T4 Education in partnership with Templeton World Charity Foundation, Accenture and American Express. T4 is a global organisation committed to providing engaging tools, initiatives and events for teachers to improve education.

The prizes are awarded to schools that have developed expertise in five key areas, that can prove and demonstrate outstanding systems, practises and performance that impact the lives of their learners and the whole community.

The other four categories are Community Collaboration, Environmental Action, Innovation and Supporting Healthy Lives. Each winning school will be awarded $50 000 (R875 404,50).

The other two finalists in the Overcoming Adversity category are Escola Evandro Ferreira Dos Santos, Brazil, and Project Shelter Wakadogo, Uganda.

Members of the public have until Sunday 2 October to vote for the school they think should win each prize at

The winners will be announced on Wednesday 19 October.

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