3 February 2017

South Africa: Rural KZN Primary School Shows the Rest How It's Done

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Deep in the heart of rural KwaZulu-Natal, down a bumpy gravel road that stretched for too many kilometres to remember, stands an immaculate little school.

The blue and white building of the school seems a bit out of place as it reminds one of a coastal resort rather than a building in a dry area with no running water. This was the last school on the list for the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education to visit, Mpotholo Primary School.

On arrival at the school Committee Chairperson Ms Nomalungelo Gina remarked how clean the school premises are. "This is a primary school, but there is not even a paper lying around."

During the meeting with the principal, Mr G Ntombela, and his senior management team, the Committee was even more surprised to find that the school does not have a cleaner. The school is kept in a pristine condition by learners, educators and parents alike.

The school has no running water and relies on rain water or the principal collects water elsewhere for learners to drink. The school does not have a library and uses outdated readers for "fun" reading as a culture of reading has been inculcated in the school.

Mr Ntombela told the Committee the school had a 90% pass rate in 2016. He further requested assistance with computers for learners. "The legacy I would like to leave this school is that it be the first school in the area to have a computer laboratory."

Committee Member Ms Vuyiswa Basson wanted more information on the School Nutrition Programme as Mr Ntombela mentioned challenges regarding that. He responded by saying the supplier at times would skip days so learners would go without food at school.

Ms Gina commended the school for its culture of reading and for its life skills project of using learners to clean the school. She said the issue of the supplier for food needs to be addressed urgently.

Accompanying the Committee on the oversight visit, the National Department of Basic Education (DBE) was so impressed with the school's achievements considering all the challenges it faces daily that it pledged a computer laboratory with the possibility of data within 90 days. Within this period, the school will also be provided with "fun readers" as well as a library. The KwaZulu-Natal Education Department committed to assist learners with uniforms.

Ms Gina further requested the DBE to fly Mr Ntombela to Cape Town to attend the Minister of Basic Education's budget speech to highlight the sterling work of the school. "It is always easier to support schools that are working, that are trying their level best despite all challenges."

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