On Wednesday, government leaders, including Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, visited various schools across the country as part of the school re-opening programme.
The Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG) on Wednesday said the official commencement of the school day saw more than two million learners attending classes in over 2 400 public schools.
“We are satisfied that the first day of the 2017 academic year started smoothly, with limited challenges.”
It said the main challenge was unplaced learners and districts are hard at work to assist parents to get places for their children in schools.
The provincial government said the number of unplaced learners was reduced from about 45 000 to 35 800 by lunch time on Wednesday.
The Gauteng Education Department (GDE) has set up 62 operation centres across the province to assist parents with admissions, including those applying for the first time.
New school launched
The provincial government also officially opened a newly constructed Nomzamo Madikizela Mandela Primary School, in Braamfischerville, Soweto.
The mega category school, which had cost R83 million to construct, caters for 1 320 learners from Grade R to Grade 7. The provincial government said the construction of the smart school is yet another service delivery milestone in delivering state of the art education facilities that meet the modern-day demands of education curriculum delivery.
“These high-tech, modern educational facilities will go a long way in ensuring that learners are equipped with the relevant skills that are needed to drive the GPG’s radical Transformation, Modernisation and Re-industrialisation strategy.”
Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said the opening of the school will go a long way in providing quality education and relieving pressure in the Braamfischerville area.
The facility is equipped with state-of-the-art functionalities including wi-fi connection. Government said it has employed the best technology to ensure that the school is energy efficient and sustainable.
Unique facilities and features of the school include covered walkways around the buildings; energy saving solar geysers; Wi-Fi network; intercoms system; CCTV camera system; landscaping around the buildings; precast palisade boundary wall; clear view fencing dividing school area and sports field as well as a security steel mesh above the ceiling for theft proof.
The school also has an underground water harvesting tank used to store storm water that will be used for irrigation and flushing purposes and a Water pump machine room; two Water steel tank; generator room and pump machine room.
Learners at the school will also eat in style at their very own dining hall which seats 400 learners with roof fans. It also has a kitchen equipped with a cold room; acoustic ceiling tiles; vinyl flooring in class rooms; ICT control room; one smart library room, counters and book shelves; two Laboratories; two multipurpose centres with store rooms each; 24 smart classrooms with store room each and one nurses station.
MECs visits to other schools
All MECs were deployed to various schools to monitor the start of the first day. Gauteng MEC for Cooperative Governance, Traditional Affairs and Human Settlements, Paul Mashatile, visited three schools in Soshanguve on the day.
He met with stakeholders, including educators, learners and School Governing Bodies (SGBs) during his visit to Soshanguve East Secondary, Phuthanang Primary and Thamaga Primary Schools.
He also utilised the visit to hand over sanitary pads to needy female learners from poor communities in Soshanguve, while also donating water tanks that enable schools to harvest rain water.
MEC Mashatile was delighted to find that the delivery of learner support material occurred, teachers and learners were on time and teaching started as planned by the school and the department.
“I am happy that all the schools I visited commenced teaching on the first day of the school year given that these are schools located in the poorer parts of the City of Tshwane.
“The readiness of the schools underscore the importance of all role-players working together to make education of our children a priority,” said MEC Mashatile.
However, he said there was still some work to be done to upgrade the infrastructure of the schools including playing grounds and facilities and school halls.
Dismissed court interdict
The provincial government said Montana and Overkruin Hoër Skole on Wednesday applied for an interdict to stop the department from placing learners who want to study in English, but the court dismissed the applications on the ground that it was not urgent as the department started engaging the schools from 13 December 2016.
“GDE welcomes the outcome of the court ruling and will instruct the schools to accept the learners. Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi will tomorrow (Thursday) morning lead a team to place the learners in the two schools,” said the provincial government.
KwaZulu-Natal Finance MEC Belinda Scott also led a delegation of members of the Provincial Legislature, Mayors and staff from various government departments and municipalities during a Legislature-initiated School Opening Functionality Monitoring Programme to three schools in Impendle area, in Midlands.
The visit covered Luthando High School which obtained 100% matric pass rate last year, Siyazama Secondary School which received 90% matric pass rate, as well as Imvunulo Secondary School in Vulindlela area near Pietermaritzburg which received 74% matric pass rate, respectively.
While all the schools started normally with all required educational material in place, the office of the MEC said the concern was on the state of infrastructure in all the three schools.
Common in all three schools is the derelict ablution facilities, vandalism of certain facilities, drugs and substance abuse, as well as the inability of the schools to repair the recurring damage to their infrastructure.
“I am proud to have schools that have shown improvement in their matric results, and I am particularly proud that, of the three schools we visited today, we have a school that obtained 100% matric pass rate.
“However, I am concerned that there are elements that might disturb the process of further improving results for the current year.
“We have been told of vandalism of school property, use of drugs in schools, lack of proper maintenance of school infrastructure as well as lack of involvement by some sections of certain relevant departments to ensure that schools function optimally,” she said.
She said the success of the schooling system requires active involvement of the community, School Governing Bodies, Municipalities as well as relevant government departments.