Corporate Social Investment

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Big plans at Monwabisi

A kitchen, improved buildings, fencing, computers and a laboratory are some of the physical improvements need at Monwabisi High School in De Aar, with which the IDC is helping. The principal is setting his cap at hard work, dedication and better results.

June 25, 2013

CSImonwa insidePrincipal of Monwabisi High School Meshack Hlomela is intent on meeting the needs of learners

Unpalatable as it may sound, converting an outside toilet into a kitchen to feed the 588 students attending Monwabisi High School is just one of the things Meshack Hlomela is doing to meet the needs of the children at his school.

Hlomela is the principal of the no-fee school in De Aar in Northern Cape. He explains that he is converting the building by expanding the room, installing electricity, gas, a counter top, a distribution window, and a storage area. These works, however, have been put on hold by a lack of funding. “Monwabisi” means “to bring joy” in Xhosa.

The school, which was built in 1977, started with just seven classes. It was the first secondary school in the Nonzwakazi area, and included classes for what are now grades 8 through to 10. At present, it also has Grade 12.

It services an area of approximately 45 000 residents, as well as students from the neighbouring villages. The average income level in Nonzwakazi is just R1 100 a month and unemployment is at 45 percent, but this does not stop the parents from contributing their time and energy to help out at the school. The community also uses the school for meetings and as a voting station.

Parents contribute by cooking for the nutrition programme, which helps to feed each student at Monwabisi High School.

CSImonwa insideMonwabisi High students are driven to achieve the best they can at the school

The face brick school has 21 teachers and 26 classrooms. It has hit some bumps in the road with regard to marks, but Hlomela is confident that students will rise to the occasion and showcase their full potential. These well-mannered students are driven to achieve the best they can at the school, and even relocate from neighbouring villages to stay closer so that they can attend school daily.

Hlomela, who is close to retiring, wants to see the school produce better marks and meet his stringent criteria before he bids it farewell. He would like to leave on a high note, where results are good and students build up their future, he says. He also “hopes this year that maths and science will do wonders”.

Monwabisi has a school governing body (SGB), established in April 2012. It meets monthly to discuss issues such as control of finance, a code of conduct for pupils, and the extramural curriculum. It also conducts staff interviews – though it does not appoint staff – and developed a mission statement for the school. The SGB has acquired study guides for the pupils, laid out palisade fencing for the sports grounds, and begun upgrading the kitchen and fencing the yard, though the last two projects have been stalled by a lack of funding.

A maths and science school, it was recently adopted by the Industrial Development Corporation following a plea by the government for big businesses to support education. This led to the IDC and Shanduka’s Adopt-A-School Foundation joining forces to take 20 schools under their wing for five years.

According to the IDC’s findings, Monwabisi’s needs include paving, shelter for the pupils during assembly, sports facilities, and computers. At present, it has six useable computers for all grades. The school has soccer fields, netball and basketball courts, but they are all incomplete because of a lack of funding.

CSImonwa insideThe IDC is meeting some of the needs of Monwabisi High

With approximately 40 students per class, there is little possibility of individual attention from teachers. More classrooms and teachers would mean that the teachers would be able to attend to the needs of all the pupils.

A major concern is that when children come from the feeder primary school, they lack the proper foundation and calculation skills that are needed for a high school pupil, says Hlomela. Teachers are busy at the feeder school designing ways to improve the children’s skills.

Monwabisi High School also gets live feed teaching sessions broadcast from the University of Stellenbosch in maths, physical science, life sciences, accounting, geography, and English.

Born and bred in De Aar, Hlomela started teaching in 1975 and was a principal at a local primary school for 10 years before heading up Monwabisi High School. De Aar, which means “the artery”, a reference to the underground water supply, is a town in Northern Cape that was established in 1903 and has an estimated population of 46 000 people.

The school has a shortage of maths and science teachers, and is faced with issues such as unsafe playgrounds, no proper fencing, classrooms that need refurbishing, better furniture, ceilings collapsing, roofs that need attention, a lack of paving, and theft.

Hlomela wants to move to a system of dedicated blocks for the specific streams of learning. This will ensure that teachers for the same subject work side by side. The school is also in need of proper chemicals and equipment for its physical science and life science laboratories. These also need restructuring as they are not up to standard.

In 2011, the school received a new block for a library and computer laboratory, though the building is not yet finished.


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