New year, new schools for Gauteng

13 January 2010

One-and-a-half hours – that’s how long it would have taken learners from Lawley to get to school were it not for Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe’s drive to get a new school up and running in the suburb in the south of Johannesburg.

Lawley Secondary School in Lawley opened on the first day of the 2011 school calendar, 12 January, with 200-plus learners from the local community.

It is the first secondary school in the suburb and one of seven new schools opened across the province. “This school is a demonstration of government working together,” said Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane, who attended the opening along with Motlanthe, Johannesburg Executive Mayor Amos Masondo, and Gauteng Education MEC Barbara Creecy.

After residents pointed out the need for a secondary school in the area, Motlanthe committed himself to ensuring that the need was met. It took only eight weeks to set up the school, which is made up of prefabricated buildings.

Creecy spoke of the “Motlanthe magic” regarding Soshanguve Technical Secondary School, which improved its results by 50% after Motlanthe intervened. She hoped this same magic would stay with Lawley Secondary to ensure it produced 100% pass rates in the future.

“This community has an excellent opportunity to set the standard for the school. You have a blank sheet, no baggage, so you can move straight to becoming a school of excellence. Those who will join the school in the future will measure themselves against the standard set by the learners in this court,” said Motlanthe.

He appealed to teachers, students and parents to perform their roles to the best of their ability. “The future of the school depends on what both students and teachers put in.”

Skumbuzo Sibanda, a maths and social science teacher, said there was a desperate need for a secondary school in Lawley. “It is the first non-school fee paying secondary school in the area and it cuts down on the great distances that the children had to travel to school every day. We are ready and willing to take the school to new heights.”

In his vote of thanks, Masondo urged educators to arrive on time, not neglect their duties and refrain from abusing their learners. As to the learners, Masondo reminded them of their responsibilities to arrive at school on time, do their school work and respect their educators.

Grade Eight pupil Mojalefe Masa said: “I’m happy to start my first day of high school at a new school. If the school wasn’t here I would have to go to Ennerdale and it would take me one hour 30 minutes every day.”

Pupil numbers

While there are only 200 children and 11 teachers at present, the school is able to accommodate many more. Creecy credits this to the fact that many parents had already enrolled their children at schools in neighbouring Lenasia and Ennerdale.

“Now that the school is up and running we can say to the community, ‘Look it’s here,’ and start transferring those learners who are in Lenasia and Ennerdale to Lawley Secondary,” she added.

She explained that while the government was unable to commit to a brick and mortar structure replacing the prefabs any time soon, residents must note that “the structures are insulated, they are SABS approved and have a 20-year life span … There are windows, doors and black boards. The structures serve the purposes for which they are meant.”

Gauteng has a shortage of 212 schools, which Creecy accredits to the large number of people who migrate to the province.

There were 13 other schools at different levels of completion that were to be opened this year, she said. While some were permanent structures, others, like Lawley, were temporary prefabricated structures.

Both Creecy and Mokonyane stressed the importance of these prefab schools, which can be set up quickly and accommodate the thousands of learners needing a place to study.

“We need to look at the use of alternative structures in the future … It is a myth that permanent structures must be brick and mortar. There are other schools here in Gauteng that have prefabricated classrooms as a means of additional classroom space,” Mokonyane pointed out.

Creecy confirmed that there were 2 000 mobile classrooms on order to be delivered over the next few months, which would satisfy the high need for supplementary classroom space at existing schools and make up many of the new schools to be opened this year.

Source: City of Johannesburg