First Day of School: Working "Better Together" to Ensure Our Learners Receive a Quality Education
Media Statement by Donald Grant, Minister of Education
Today, around 940 000 learners will begin the 2012 school year.
The WCED is expecting around 100 000 learners to enter Grade 1 this year and approximately 80 000 in Grade 8.
This morning, education officials, including myself, will be visiting schools across the province to assess school readiness and to wish learners and educators well for the academic year.
We will also be on standby to provide assistance at schools where there are late registrations and any other last-minute tasks that need to be completed.
The WCED has found that over the last two days (educators returned to school on Monday) the overwhelming majority of schools are well prepared and ready for the school year.
This year, our main focus areas will be on reading and writing, especially the proper utilisation of textbooks and workbooks, meeting our improvement targets, the protection of teaching and learning time, increased educator development and training and more parental involvement.
This morning, my first visit for the day will be at Ekuthuleni Primary in Bloekombos, where I will be meeting the schools' new intake of around 120 learners.
This is a very stressful and exciting day for many of our Grade 1 learners and even their parents. I am sure to expect some tears!
I would like to say to each and every one of our new learners and their parents - Welcome.
We are delighted to have them in our schools and we look forward to spending the next 12 years with them, working "Better Together" to ensure that they all receive a quality education.
The WCED will also be releasing a guide to Grade 1 parents which includes some suggestions as to what parents must do to support their child in language and Mathematics in the first year of school, information on what children must know and be able to do by the end of Grade 1 and recommended reading lists.
Grade 1 is a very important year and we need to encourage all our parents and caregivers to assist our learners in building their language and Mathematics skills every day.
At Ekuthuleni Primary, I will also be handing out 428 individual backpacks to learners in Grades 1-3 at the school.
Each school bag contains writing books, pencils, crayons, rulers etc, and for Grade 3s, a dictionary.
The initiative is part of a WCED project to assist Foundation Phase learners at all of our poorer 301 Quintile 1 schools.
The reason behind the rollout of the bags is to ensure that each learner has the means to carry their school homework, textbooks and workbooks home for further study and reading. This is the kind of routine that we want all our learners to subscribe to this year so that we can improve learner performance in this province.
Research has shown that many of the learners in Q1 schools do not own or cannot afford their own school bag or stationery. They therefore tend to carry their textbooks in plastic bags, and as a result, the books are more likely to be torn, lost or worn down. Also, rather than carrying them in plastic bags, learners sometimes store the books at home or leave them at school - therefore not properly utilising them.
In order to make our schools text-rich environments, at the end of last year, we rolled out over 2 million textbooks, as well as workbooks to schools, particularly in the Foundation Phase grades, and we want to ensure that these books are fully utilised every day.
The cost of the project is R3.2 million.
My second stop today will be at the new Fisantekraal High School in Durbanville. Fisantekraal is one of 11 schools opening across the province today.
I am looking forward to finally see learners and educators at the school and to determine if the school is prepared and ready for the year ahead.
The school has accepted enrolment this year for around 500 learners in Grades 8-10 and will be offering both English and Afrikaans (dual-medium) instruction, with isiXhosa offered as Home Language.
Construction on the school began in August 2010 and was completed by the end of the 2011 school year.
I am very excited about the fact that the WCED is opening 11 new schools today.
Seven of the 11 new schools will be enrolling learners for the first time. These schools include:
- Blue Downs Primary School (Metro East).
- Northpine Technical High School (Metro East).
- Citrusdal High School (West Coast).
- Delft Technical High School (Metro North).
- Fisantekraal Secondary (Metro North).
- Melkbosstrand High School (Metro North).
- Hout Bay Primary School (Metro Central).
Although Melkbosstrand HS will officially open and begin teaching and learning today, learners are expected to move into the new school building only in April 2012. The school will be temporarily located at Bloubergrant High School, where a separate section of this school has been allocated to house the new Melkbosstrand HS learners.
The other four new schools to open today include those that already have already been operating for a number of years, but have been temporarily located in mobile classrooms. These schools were established after a sudden increase in population in the area. Temporary mobiles were put in place to accommodate the learners and educators concerned. Learners from all existing grades will simply move from the old premises to their new one this year.
These schools include:
- Naphakade Secondary (West Coast).
- Aberdare Primary (Metro Central).
- Hindle Road West Primary (Metro Central).
- Hindle Road Secondary (Metro Central).
The WCED has ensured that all the necessary logistical requirements, such as school furniture, equipment and learner support materials, have been delivered before the start of the school year.
I look forward to visiting all these schools this year and am confident that their now empty classrooms will be transformed into hubs of teaching and learning, where learners and educators are safe and secure, and where quality learning is taking place.
The excitement around the 2011 NSC results and the improvements made in the Western Cape have made us all even more determined to ensure continued success of the 2012 school year.
By working "Better Together" we will further improve the quality of education in this province.