First day at big school

MEC Donald Grant

THE Western Cape Education Department says everything is on track for about 100 000 Grade 1 pupils to start their school careers tomorrow and thousands of pupils from other grades return for the new academic year.

Some pupils will start the year at schools that have been vandalised or burgled during the holidays, with 15 schools so far reporting incidents during the holidays. In the same period last year, 29 cases were reported.

Teachers returned to school yesterday to prepare for the beginning of the 2012 academic year.

An art room opened as a safe space for schoolchildren at Red River Primary School in Manenberg last year has been left with holes in the ceiling and broken windows. Art supplies were stolen.

At Athwood Primary inHanover Park, which has been so frequently vandalised over the past few years that both the principal and the deputy principal have threatened to quit, principal Franklin Phillipus was at his wits’ end.

“There is nothing more that they can take, but they target copper piping, brass, bathroom basins, taps and fluorescent lights. None of the classes have any lights,” a distraught Phillipus said.

Erfaan Isaacs, the principal of Summit Primary inHanover Park, said that during the holidays thieves had stolen a year’s worth of toilet paper as well as five brush cutters used to mow the lawn.

A security guard was chased off the property and attacked so that the perpetrators could get inside the storeroom, Isaacs said.

At Belmor Primary inHanover Park, vandals broke a classroom window and stole two taps.

Education MEC Donald Grant said the vandalism figure for the 2011/12 December and January period suggested a continued decline in the number of holiday incidents atWestern Capeschools, although a clearer picture could be expected only towards the end of the week.

Twelve of the 15 cases were considered minor incidents, Grant said, and included damage to a safety gate and theft of tins of fish, pots, copper pipes and other items.

Two were considered negligible and involved attempted burglary, while one case, where a block of toilets at a primary school was damaged, was considered serious.

The department’s Safe Schools division had organised patrols of 350 schools during the holidays.

Grant said 11 new schools would open this year.

He said the department was expecting “the usual small group” of late enrolments, especially involving pupils who had come to theWestern Capefrom other provinces.

Yesterday, parents queued at several schools to register their children at the last minute.

Nicole Sait, the secretary at Silverstream Primary, said parents had tried to register 80 or 90 pupils at the school.

“This morning (yesterday) parents were queuing to find placement. It gets better each year, though, because last year parents were queuing until 1pm.”

Dawood Tregonning, principal at Silverstream Secondary, said they were accustomed to late registrations.

“We don’t want to see any child on the street and we still have space available.”

Deborah van der Merwe, the secretary ofRed RiverPrimary Schoolin Manenberg, said it was mostly Grade R and 1 pupils who were being registered at the school yesterday.

Lorraine Cloete stood in line to register her two grandchildren.

“I came to register the children for Grade R. The mothers are… working, so asked me to register them.”

Emily Adams, also a grandmother, said she wasn’t able to register her grandchild last year: “I was here last year but didn’t have the paperwork from the crèche, so I couldn’t register my grandson.”

Areas where there could be high levels of demand and where officials would be waiting to assist includeMitchellsPlain, Nyanga, Philippi,Delft,KuilsRiver,Langa,HanoverPark, Manenberg and Oudtshoorn.

Grant said that every year there were parents who lived in the province but failed in their responsibility to enrol their children in good time: “Many then expect placement in their schools of choice at the start of the school year and complain if they do not get in.”

He said the department’s focus this year would be on reading and writing, especially the proper utilisation of textbooks and workbooks, meeting targets for improvement, the protection of teaching and learning time, increased teacher development and training and more parental involvement.

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