Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thank You, Mr Snyman

- Linda Jaquet -

Kobus Snyman, the highly respected headmaster of Hoërskool Zwartberg, is retiring early at the end of this school year to farm full-time. The Friend chatted to him in his office less than a month before the end of the last school term.

Snyman, who has served as headmaster since 1997 after joining the staff of the school as a young teacher in 1984, regards normalising the school after 1994 as one of the highlights of his teaching career. He was full of praise for the backing of the whole community for the process, which he said ran very smoothly. This, in spite of the fact that the town’s two schools are independent of each other, that the learners are from very different backgrounds and that Hoërskool Zwartberg is far smaller than Prince Albert Primêre Skool.

A further proud moment was the Department of Education’s recognition of the smooth transition and strides made afterwards by the school, when in 2001 Hoërskool Zwartberg was declared the “most integrated school in the Western Cape”. Kobus feels that the award was not just the school’s but also one for the community of Prince Albert to cherish and celebrate. He is therefore saddened that from time to time some parents’ own reservations of integration are still transferred to their children.

The high quality of teaching at the school also gives him pleasure. “This is due to Zwartberg Hoër knowing what its core business is and doing its very best to offer every child a good education.”, he says. This can be difficult and trying for his staff, he admits, because of the huge disparities in the educational backgrounds of the learners.

Snyman’s one bugbear is the paperwork and red tape that he and all the teachers have to contend with. The only time during the interview that he showed irritation was when he described the policy wonks in the Department of Education as out of touch with the actual situation in schools and having unrealistic expectations of teachers and learners alike.

At the same time, Snyman said that he would do it all over again. He encouraged his successor to be creative, use the remarkable resources and opportunities on offer in the town and to set her or his priorities and stick to them. This would be particularly useful in determining and managing vital fundraising for the school. The school’s financial situation was always in crisis, he said. Over the years he had learned not to worry too much and that from experience, he knew that a higher hand would inevitably intervene.

He hoped whoever came after him would continue with the school’s farming activities that he initiated – ostriches and seed production – which bring in substantial funds. The person need not have an interest in farming, he felt, as there were plenty of local farmers who had offered to help. The majority of learners at the school are not fee-paying. The Department of Education subsidy for them will amount to R113 526.00 in 2009. Given the school’s required expenditure on teaching staff, facilities and general administration next year, teachers, parents, learners and all of us will have to raise almost five times that to cover costs.

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