It was a mixture of teary eyes and beaming smiles for learners attending school for the first time as the MEC for Education in the province, Senzo Mchunu, visited Grantham Park Primary school in Empangeni as part of his school functionality monitoring for the 2013 academic year.
The MEC arrived at Grantham Park Primary at seven o'clock in the morning to ring a bell signalling the first day of school in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.
"I am encouraged by what I am seeing here - it means people are beginning to heed our call that the first second, minute and first hour of the first day at school should be utilised for teaching and learning and nothing else," remarked the MEC.
After ringing the bell and interacting with the staff, he spent time consoling learners who were crying frantically not wanting to separate from their parents. The MEC assured the little ones that school is a nice place where they are going to make new friends and even have time to play their favourite games.
Grantham Park was the first of many schools that the MEC intended to visit. At Uthungulu District, the MEC visited ten (10) schools on the first day including schools at Enseleni Township, Ngwelezane Township, Rishards Bay and Esikhawini Township.
By the end of Friday, 18 January, the MEC had visited thirty (30) schools in three districts (Uthungulu, Umlazi and Ugu District). "This MEC has amazing and unparalleled levels of energy, he never gets tired," quipped one official.
During these functionality monitoring surprise visits, the MEC was accompanied by officials from Human Resource, Infrastructure and Curriculum Management and Delivery. For each and every challenge raised by the school, the MEC ensured that relevant officials attend to it on the spot.
This three days marathon by the MEC and his entourage was over and above school functionality monitoring that was conducted by all MEC's in the province as well as Members of the Provincial Legislature.
As part of ensuring that school opening was without major glitches, the MEC set up an Operational Centre at Head Office where districts phoned in case there were challenges. Officials at the Operational Centre started working at seven in the morning phoning all districts ensuring a smooth start at schools.
On 17 January, the second day of school's opening, the Head of Department (HOD), Dr Nkosinathi Sishi and the MEC for Economic Development, Mike Mabuyakhulu, visited Umkhanyakude District in their capacity as champions of the District. Together with the Members of Provincial Legislature they visited Sphambano CP School in Mtubatuba where they engaged with the school community.
Much as Annual National Assessment (ANA) results for Sphambano C. P School were 53% in 2012, the HOD registered his disappointment with numeracy results which were a dismal 0%. He called on everyone to work hard to ensure that the school improves on the 2012 dismal results.
All in all, it was a super start for the 2013 academic year and the MEC was encouraged by the reports he received from all the 12 education districts in the province.