Dr Lutz van Dijk, Masiphumelele, founding co-director of the HOKISA Childrens’ Home in Masiphumelele
After reports had been published in different newspapers that Masi High’s pass rate had dropped in 2016 to less than 50 percent, mainly due to drug-related gang violence and political unrest, the huge majority of teachers, parents and pupils decided at the start of this new school year to do something about it.
Inspired by Western Cape Education Department circuit manager Thandi Jafta on January 20, a campaign began called “48 to 84” to achieve again as one of the best schools in the Western Cape with a former pass rate of 84 percent.
At the beginning of the term Nelson Mafrika, the principal, who had been threatened by gang members before, returned to the school and a new school governing body (SGB) was elected.
On February 13, all present Grade 12 pupils and parents took part in a moving ceremony to pledge with their individual signature that they want to do all to improve the pass rate this year significantly, again in the presence of Ms Jafta from the education department.
The district director, Glen van Harte, also delivered a motivational talk to Grade 9 and 12 – pupils.
Support has been received on different levels. Locally, a number of teachers from other schools, some retired, offered to assist with extra lessons on weekends, especially in maths and science.
Milli Firth of Masicorp did a great job to extend the existing extra learning programme and got new volunteers involved, working together with professional teachers. In partnership with Fish Hoek High School, supervised by teacher Rob Douglas, support is offered to Masi High Grade 11 and 12 pupils, in maths and now also at Masi High for Grade 9 pupils.
Together with Mr Mafrika and school receptionist, Nomonde Gaji, volunteer Lyn Scott, helped create a budget around most needed fundraising, identifying the following areas: Urgent maintenance of classrooms before winter, employing of a media centre assistant to allow more daily access for pupils to computers and books, to plan for a matric camp for Grade 12 – and finally more security at the premises to fight vandalism and burglaries after school hours.
We received South African donations of R7 680 and internationally another R105 300 was collected between January 20 and March 25, mainly from German schools, some individual donors and one outstanding grant by the German Teachers Trade Union (GEW) who had visited Masi High with an international delegation a few years ago.
More good news: After already 90 classroom windows and five doors had been fixed as a matter of urgency with the first incoming donations, the school was told that soon more maintenance would be paid via a special fund of the Department of Education.
On the downside: After the first weeks all pupils had been highly motivated and always on time at school, again some have allowed themselves to come late and sometimes are still seen in their blue shirts at 8.30pm or even later in the streets of Masi. The support of all parents and the whole community is needed here, much beyond any financial support.
Mr Mafrika and his team of motivated teachers will continue their fight for a much better pass rate at the end of this school year, while also improving learning and teaching in all other grades. Already plans are under way to prepare for Madiba Day 2017 with a huge effort to continue upgrading the school premises much beyond this special day.