Built to cut short the long distances children had to walk to school on the other side of town, Five Rand Primary School has now transformed into a centre of excellence striving for nothing but the best regardless of the endless odds stacked against it. It was in 2005 that the Five Rand community came to the rescue of the learners, who had to walk long distances in all weathers. Now, for about 11 years, the community can confidently boast that they have built a school and look forward to see it transforming lives. The school started with Grade 1 to 7 and other schools gave the little they could to help. School principal Victor Nakapandi recalls how the school was more like a dumping ground in the town, with schools sending over their underperforming learners. Others gave tables and chairs that were not conducive but in the absence of the best, learners were forced to use them.
“We started off with very enthusiastic and motivated teachers, who were committed to transforming the school and the results just walked our talk. The parents were very involved in playing their role so things went very smoothly. It was so good that other schools started looking at how we just blossomed with a 230 headcount,” said Nakapandi in an interview with The Patriot. He also shared that the relationship between learners and teachers was very result-oriented while complemented by discipline. Today, the school has sadly recorded a drop in academic performance for a variety of reasons. The school now has a population of 640 learners and the infrastructure to start with cannot accommodate all learners. With the small infrastructure, the school has a morning and afternoon programme to allow all learners to at least enjoy learning. Parents of the community have decided to turn the school’s car park into another learning setting. They came together, collected money and managed to build classrooms out of zinc sheets. On top of this, the school faces the challenge of inadequate teachers, thus putting pressure on the current to work twice as hard.
Also, the level of parental involvement has dimmed because the community now has young parents and child-headed homes. As such, the school has set its vision to do nothing but see that it regains its glory. “It was the best back then but things have now changed. Now we have young mothers, who barely sit their children down. And with this comes the lack of discipline at school that ultimately affects academic performance. So, when we realised that the results went down, we started afternoon classes and a learner support system that would be able to bring back the results,” said the school’s Junior Primary Head of Department, Bettina Gaebuse. The school is bordered by a few shebeens that also contribute to learner disturbance. Nakapandi noted that shebeen owners are conscious of maintaining low noise levels during class hours. “We should understand that the same shebeens that make noise are the same establishments that parents make profits from to send their children to school. They are, however, very understanding and even during the day, they keep their silence while we teach. The problem comes at night because the learners go to sleep very late because of the noise.”With a few donations from the business community in the town, the school has managed to build a few classrooms to make learning conducive – but the shacks still stand to date. Orange Babies have come on board and feeds the learners at the school. ICT is another component still foreign the school is yet to realise.
“For us to become a school of excellence, we need to prioritise in certain areas such as ICT, infrastructure and human capacity. My wish is for us to have at least a laboratory at the school so that our leaners get to do exercises practically. We also need our learners to be in touch with technology because the world is moving on. And the very important one is that we want to develop the child as a whole, whereby, if you come here, it is a full environment where the child is not only equipped with imagination but has the sense of reality too. We also want to teach our children to be in touch with their culture, which will contribute to their discipline,” shared the school head. Seven years later, it would still mean that the Five Rand Primary School learner now has to start walking long distances again to attend high school – but at least they are older by then.