By SIPHO ZONO
18 January 2023 marked the beginning of the school year. Some learners started a new grade at their old schools. Others began their educational journey in grade R. For grade eight learners at Andrew Moyake School of Excellence; they started their day in a brand new school in Fingo Village.
That day, I sat with the school principal, Jonathan Hellemann, to speak about the new space that houses the school.
“It’s brand new. What makes it exciting is that we can create new ways of doing things,” said Helleman.
Serving Makana Local Municipality’s needs
The opening of the school came at a time when there were between 150-250 unplaced grade 7 learners for grade 8 the following year. “The creation and formation of the school are primarily to fill the gap of needing high school spaces in Makhanda,” said Helleman. More importantly, there was a need for more English medium schools in Makhanda as only three are government-funded.
Moreover, he believes that quality education can lead to learners having a successful life and contributing meaningfully to their community.
Helleman also believes that being a school of excellence, the aim is to excel at everything they do. He added that the new school will look at local schools’ best practices and model their school on those and also learn from experience.
Rooted in history
To understand the importance of the new school, Helleman revisited the history of the old. Andrew Moyake started as a primary school in 1927 in Fingo Village until it closed down in 2020, due to a lack of resources and learner numbers. Following the closure, the learners and teachers moved to Fikizolo Primary School. As a result, the building was unused. Community members and the Department of Education feared that history would repeat itself and that the building would eventually get abandoned and vandalised in a similar manner to Benjamin Mahlasela School in extension 7.
Growing year by year
The school comprises 105 grade eight learners. Helleman hopes to keep the classes small and have a maximum of 35 learners per class, allowing for quality education. “We are trying to keep our numbers low because a large class does not allow for personalised education and meaningful intervention,” said Helleman.
Although the school only has one grade, Helleman hopes to have between 500 and 550 learners when the school has grade 12 classes in 2027. He added that they are growing the school gradually, and every year they will add one new grade to the school.
Challenges along the way
Although school opening is exciting, it is not without challenges. One of the biggest challenges the school faces is getting venues and classes up to standard, and the school is waiting for government funds for the necessary infrastructure changes.
There are currently no functioning toilets. However, to mitigate this challenge, the Department of Education has given them temporary toilets.
An excellent idea
While there are challenges at the school, there are exciting curriculum developments that will take place. Helleman said that they are looking to teach arts subjects such Drama, Music, Dance, and Art – a rare find in township schools.
Other subjects include Agricultural Studies, which no other school offers in Makhanda, which Helleman deems necessary considering that Makhanda is an agricultural area surrounded by game reserves and farms. Technology-related subjects are also on the agenda for the “new kids on the block”.
In the final part of my interview, I asked Helleman if he had any advice for community members. He calls on the community to help all local schools with whatever resources they have, whether it’s their time or expertise because he believes that if the community works together, Makhanda can be a thriving educational centre.
(Sipho Zono is the director of Sizo Media)