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School defies shortages to produce top matric results

Rephafogile secondary school pupils in Mamelodi, east of Pretoria, carry their desk and chairs with as they change classes. Vandalism and theft have negatively affected the school.
Rephafogile secondary school pupils in Mamelodi, east of Pretoria, carry their desk and chairs with as they change classes. Vandalism and theft have negatively affected the school.
Image: Mduduzi Ndzingi

Rephafogile secondary school in Mamelodi, east of Pretoria, produced top matric results in 2018 despite shocking conditions under which the pupils learn.

The school scored a 96.2% pass rate for its matrics, earning one of the top marks in Gauteng. Principal Whellemina Mahlangu said to motivate grade 12 pupils, the school introduced awards for best performer every term.

"We also had to set strict rules for our learners as we had the problem of pupils bunking classes," Mahlangu said.

During Sowetan visit at the school this week, we discovered how the pupils got by with meagre resources.

In grades 8 and 9 classrooms, pupils either squatted on the floor or up to four shared a desk. Some pupils sat on dustbins during lessons.

Though grade 12 classrooms were lesser affected by the furniture shortages, the matrics too have to get by with meagre resources. This has made their effort in the 2018 examinations an incredible achievement, improving from a mere 47% in 2017.

The 11-year-old school has also been the victim of vandalism. All the smart boards, which make "paperless" education possible, have been stolen. Half of the school does not have windows.

"We try very hard to stay focused and also motivate these children to do their school work. Unfortunately, I cannot stand the whole hour and I find myself having to share a chair with a pupil," said one of the teachers.

A 14-year-old grade 8 pupil, who made use of the armrest of her chair to balance her notebook in order to write some notes from the chalkboard, complained that it was strenuous for her to complete her school work on time.

"We have to arrive very early in class to be able to get a desk or a chair or we are forced to sit on the floor," she said.

She said it was easy to lose focus when you were not comfortable in class "but I try very hard to concentrate".

Another grade 8 pupil, who was sitting on the floor during class, complained that the floors were often cold and dirty.

"It is tiring to sit on the dirty floors; every day pupils fight over the fewer chairs."

The school governing body (SGB) has tried alleviating the plight of the pupils by installing tiles in seven classes and replacing broken glass widows with a plastic type in 13 classrooms.

SGB chairperson Sipho Dlongolo said: "Gauteng department of education is aware about our situation but have done nothing about it. This is a no-fee school and the money we get from government is not enough to cover everything."

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