YES, it is true that the education system is under huge strain, what with either non- or wrong delivery of books, collapsing infrastructure, vandalism of classrooms and toilets, large classes and non-payment of teachers. Poverty among the pupils is also a great challenge.
Recently during a Camdeboo Municipality-driven "Water is Precious” education programme that the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (Wessa) implemented in 10 Camdeboo schools with the help of the Camdeboo National Park, it was sad to see that even pencils are in short supply at some schools.
Pencils have to be looked after like gold by teachers and one rubber even had to be shared by the whole class!
But what we observe is that in most cases, principals, teachers and pupils have risen above these challenges and are achieving quite extraordinary results given their circumstances.
We need to focus much more on these positives so as not to undermine the spirit and efforts of those who are doing their best under very trying circumstances.
In the Camdeboo, the pupils are well disciplined and very eager to learn, and most schools seem to have had their books delivered!
Schools are neat and tidy, and several charismatic principals are playing a major leadership role in the community far beyond their schools’ precincts.
Wessa supports 25 eco-schools in the NMBM region with the help of funding from corporates Coca-Cola Fortune, ABB and Orion. Eco-schools is an international programme focussing on environmental teaching and learning coupled with promoting environmental projects at schools.
We thus visit the schools and have good insight into many of the critical challenges. But we also see the excellent performances as well.
School gardens are flourishing, the pupils keep their schools neat and conduct clean-ups in their communities, they recycle their waste and harvest their rain water for their gardens.
The vegetables produced go into their cooking pots for the pupils’ lunches.
Some are very innovative. Settlers’ Park Primary, to save on its high water bills, has put in a system of tanks for harvesting rain water to flush its toilets and recently hosted a fantastic science expo.
Eco-schools also participate in environmental competitions and win!
Congratulations to our eco-schools, Morningside High, and Dumani and Vukani Bantu primary schools featured in The Herald of August 7 as award winners in the Dedeat environmental issues debating competition held at KwaDwesi Community Centre.
Congrats also to Nomonde Ntsundwana, our permaculture expert at Seyisi Primary, who was one of the top three finalists in the National Shoprite/Checkers Woman of the Year competition this year in the education category.
She is organising a major event for celebrating World Food Day in October where our eco-schools and community gardeners will display their produce.
Hats off to those in basic education who are winning in spite of the difficult times.
Martheanne Finnemore, regional manager, Wessa Eastern Province