Gauteng Education unveils new schools

Gauteng Education

The opening of a new secondary school in Palm Ridge, east of Johannesburg, will ease overcrowding in classrooms and resolve transport problems for learners who had to travel too far away areas to get an education.

Gauteng Education unveils 17 new schools

As the little ones made their emotional first appearance at schools around the country on Wednesday, Gauteng Education MEC Barbara Creecy opened the newly constructed Palm Ridge Secondary School to mark the first day of schooling.

“It is a new secondary school we are opening in the area. It is one of 17 schools in the province that we are opening today.

“This school is hot off the press. I think the constructor is still applying finishing touches to the outer perimeter. We have already got over 500 Grade 8 and Grade 9 learners in the school. Textbooks have been delivered, teachers and learners are here and teaching has already started,” she said.

Creecy said the school was needed in the area because the other schools in the vicinity were battling to accommodate leaners due to a high demand.

“We are very pleased that although it was tight, we were able to occupy the building today and that learning and teaching has started.”

When Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced the 2013 National Senior Certificate overall pass rate at 78.2% – its highest in 19 years – Gauteng fared well and achieved an 87% pass rate — up by 3.1 percentage points from 83.9% in 2012.

Creecy said the opening of the school was significant, as it happened in an area that is plagued by social challenges like drugs, crime and child-headed homes.

The school’s acting principal, Charles van Zyl, said the school only had Grade 8 and 9 to start out, and they aimed to grow it in order to have a Grade 12 class by 2017.

The school has, amongst other facilities, 25 classrooms, two laboratories, two multipurpose rooms and a computer room.

Benches around the school yard, Van Zyl said, also made it a conducive environment for leaners to socialise and mingle.

‘Put partying on hold for one year of your life’

Shortly after unveiling Palm Ridge Secondary School, Creecy then went into a classroom and told a Grade 12 Life Sciences class at Eden Park Secondary School in the same district that learners must work hard and abstain from partying because their matric certificate is a very important document.

“Just remember that you are going to feel stressed and what’s important is that even now, start to get your study buddies, people that you can work with in the evenings and on weekends.

“But also, if your study buddy is partying too much, you need to remind them ‘not this year, not this year’.

“That little piece of paper at the end of the year matters. So start early, cut down on the partying now. I know generally it is hard, I can see it from the way you are smiling,” she joked.

Despite also being surrounded by social problems similar to that of Palm Ridge Secondary School, the school’s class of 2013 fared well with a pass rate of 94.9%. The school’s principal Bennie Louw attributed it to tracking leaner performance from the lower grades.

The school, a no-fee or quintal 3 school which has about 1 400 learners in its books, also experiences challenges like teen pregnancies, child-headed homes and drugs. It gets assistance from the Gauteng’s Community Safety Department, which does safety search and seizures with the consent of the parents. The Department of Social Development provides support to learners from poor backgrounds through donating school uniform and nutrition.

Louw said teachers at the school are asked to focus on a specific number of learners at a time, where they are mentored from Grade 11 till matric, with quarterly meetings being held with both the learners and their parents to discuss performance. –