Sunday, January 31, 2010

Hoërskool Zwartberg Follow Up

In its November/December 2009 edition The Friend undertook to follow up on in its editorial comment. “Dis nou tyd om eerlik te wees”. We report below on what we have achieved to date.

This month, on our Letters page, we carry two letters that offer different perspectives on what is happening at Hoërskool Zwartberg. We thank both writers for taking the time and making the effort to address an issue that is important in a small town like ours.

The Friend is aware that on two occasions during 2009 the educators at Hoërskool Zwartberg requested the Western Cape Department of Education’s (WCED) assistance to address specific concerns. Ms Ellen Joubert resigned in August 2009 as head of the school’s governing body listing the reasons as attributable to the management style at the school. During September the governing body also requested the Department’s help in resolving their concerns.

To date, there has been no visible action and nothing seems to have changed. Educators and members of the governing body the Friend has spoken to are highly concerned that they have received no feedback on the undertakings made and do not know what is going on.

The Friend’s enquiry to the WCED about its undertakings to the school was referred to the Department’s Director of Communication, Mr Paddy Atwell, who on 19 January informed the Friend: “The Western Cape Education Department is satisfied with the performance of Zwartberg High - for example, the school had a matric pass rate of 100% in 2009. The department will consider all points of view carefully when assessing the situation.” In a subsequent telephone conversation the same afternoon, Mr Attwell told the Friend that the Department wished to add that “the WCED has investigated the various complaints and taken appropriate actions. It has noted great improvements in the administration of the school especially in the hostel.”

The community is proud of Hoërskool Zwartberg with its good academic record and outstanding matric results year in and year out. There are also its achievements in the sporting arena even though we do not have a wealthy school in an upmarket neighbourhood. Many, even those who do not have children in the school, contribute regularly to the school’s fundraising efforts because they believe that a healthy school is important for the sustainability of the town.

At the same time there is concern in many sectors in our community that in the last few months, governing body posts have been scrapped and teachers have resigned, parents have removed their children from the school, and there are fewer fee-paying children this year. This means an even greater lack of funds for the school than in previous years. At the time of going to print, the governing body of the school was not functional and due to hold elections. Another problem is that these facts lead to speculation and division in the community

The Friend knows that there are formal forums where these concerns can be raised and, in the interest of openness and transparency, regards itself as yet one more where issues of importance to the community can be discussed and debated.

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