15 January 2014
Gauteng Education MEC Barbara Creecy was on hand on Wednesday to open the newly built Palm Ridge Secondary School – one of 17 new schools to open on the first day of schooling for the year in South Africa’s most populous province.
“This school is hot off the press,” Creecy said. “I think the constructor is still applying finishing touches to the outer perimeter. We have already got over 500 Grade 8 and Grade 9 learners in the school. Textbooks have been delivered, teachers and learners are here, and teaching has already started.”
The school has 25 classrooms, two laboratories, two multi-purpose rooms and a computer room. The school’s acting principal, Charles van Zyl, said the school was offering Grade 8 and 9 to start with, and aimed to be offering Grades 10, 11 and 12 by 2017.
“We are very pleased that although it was tight, we were able to occupy the building today and that learning and teaching has started,” Creecy said.
She added that the school was needed in the area, east of Johannesburg, because other schools in the vicinity were battling to accommodate with growing learner numbers.
She said it was important because it was in an area that was plagued by social challenges such as drug abuse, crime and child-headed homes.
‘Put partying on hold for a year’
After the opening of Palm Ridge Secondary, Creecy paid a visit to nearby Eden Park Secondary School, where she told a Grade 12 Life Sciences class to work hard and abstain from partying because their matric certificate was a very important document.
“Just remember that you are going to feel stressed, and what’s important is that even now, start to get your study buddies, people that you can work with in the evenings and on weekends.
“But also, if your study buddy is partying too much, you need to remind them: ‘Not this year, not this year’. That little piece of paper at the end of the year matters. So start early, cut down on the partying now,” Creecy said.
While South Africa’s overall matric pass rate for 2013 was 78.2%, its highest in 19 years, Gauteng province achieved an 87% pass rate, up from 83.9% in 2012 – while Eden Park Secondary’s matrics recorded a pass rate of 94.9%.
Eden Park Secondary principal principal Bennie Louw attributed this success to tracking learner performances from the lower grades.
He said teachers were asked to focus on a specific number of learners at a time, mentoring them from Grade 11, with quarterly meetings being held with both learners and parents to discuss their performance.
The school, a no-fee school with about 1 400 learners, also has to deal with teen pregnancies, child-headed homes and drug abuse. It gets in tackling drug abuse from the Gauteng Community Safety Department, which conducts regular searches with the consent of the parents.