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Moses Maren to get help

In its five-year programme to help selected schools, the Industrial Development Corporation has partnered with Shanduka’s Adopt-A-School Foundation. Moses Maren Mission Technical High School in Eikenhof is one of the 20 schools on the list.

April 4, 2013

CSImoses insideElla Matlejoane, the principal of Moses Maren

Built on what was once a farm plot in Eikenhof, the Moses Maren Mission Technical High School caters to the education needs of some of the region’s most impoverished youth. A no-fee school, it has recently been adopted by the Industrial Development Corporation, which will now help to meet the needs of its 1 039 students.

The IDC’s intervention comes after the government urged big business to support education. It led to the IDC and the Shanduka’s Adopt-A-School Foundation joining forces to take 20 schools under their wing for five years. The Moses Maren Mission Technical High School offers four streams of learning: a general stream for students who just want a basic matric; a science stream; a technical stream; and, a commerce stream.

It also has a tennis court, netball and volleyball court and soccer pitch, as well as a cemetery onsite, lying next to the soccer pitch. This is the final resting place of the families who once owned the farm in 1902, and is in immaculate condition. Dividing the soccer pitch and cemetery from the classrooms is a small, newly built administration building fully equipped with a staff kitchen, principal’s office and other offices.

The school infrastructure, which comprises some 37 classrooms, has been built through donations from the private sector as well as the government. These classrooms are a mix of face brick and converted shipping containers. Students come from neighbouring farms and informal settlements and either walk a few kilometres to get there or are bussed in, a service offered by the school. Five volunteers help out daily, cooking food to ensure that each student gets at least one solid meal for the day. These women cook in one of the converted containers and store the month’s food supply in another.

Moses Maren has a computer laboratory, although it is very small, as well as an equally small library housed in a converted container. It has a few built-in toilets that are used by students and teachers, near the classrooms. Since the school is of a technical nature, it has a woodwork room and while it is under-equipped, it helps the students with their projects.

Depending on the grade of the student, they learn how to make and install burglar gates, cupboards, shelves, medicine cabinets, and braai stands, among other work. This is all evident in their finished products, which are used and displayed around the school. Mathematics in the school has been on a shaky incline over the past few years; but other subjects have not been so fruitful – mainly because of a shortage of resources essential to teaching.

Needs analysis

CSImoses insideLearners are taught technical subjects like carpentry

Adopt-A-School is a non-profit organisation set up to correct the inequalities and inadequacies in South Africa’s rural and disadvantaged schools. The joint campaign was launched at the IDC offices in Sandton on 8 March. Of the 20 schools, 16 are in rural areas and R80-million has been earmarked for their adoption over the five years.

The foundation undertook a detailed needs analysis of schools, and found among other things that 50 percent had no science laboratories; 61 percent had no libraries; all had infrastructure inadequacies; and, half didn’t get a 50 percent matric pass rate.

Ella Matlejoane, the principal of Moses Maren, said: “Our school was built through donations so the infrastructure is not up to date; that’s why we approached Shanduka to help us out. We don’t have science labs and libraries so this will definitely help.”

The school has 1 039 pupils and 34 teachers. Matlejoane said: “The teacher/pupil ratio is fine but the problem is class overcrowding due to the school’s build. It is not up to the department’s standards as we built it from donations.” Each classroom houses up to 50 students.

Matlejoane started at the school as a post level one teacher, which is the entry level position; she was promoted to head of department for commerce and when she saw a gap when the school was taking a downward spiral, she applied for the principal’s post in 2006. She was appointed that same year.

Equal footing

Her vision for the school is to continue serving the disadvantaged youth from surrounding areas and to show them that “there are other colours of the rainbow” in that they can achieve so much more than may be expected from their backgrounds. “Seeing learners being given an equal footing in the world” is among her aims for the students.

In 2010, the foundation built three classrooms. The Department of Basic Education provided mobile classrooms, mobile ablution facilities, a mobile kitchen container and a mobile library. It also provides food and resources for the school’s feeding scheme.

CSImoses insideA feeding scheme ensures learners have a solid meal a day

“From the foundation’s interaction with the school management team and school governing body, no particular leadership challenges were identified,” said the IDC. Areas of concern raised included students struggling with mathematics, with language and literacy, an inadequately resourced library, science laboratory and computer laboratory, teacher concerns regarding the change of curriculum, a lack of computer skills among teachers and pupils and a high number of orphaned and vulnerable children.

In other findings, the IDC noted: “The school’s current infrastructure is structurally sound and the existing structures are in relatively good condition. However, the school struggles to maintain the existing structures. There is a serious need for more facilities to be constructed in the school. The classrooms and ablution facilities are inadequate and do not cater for all the learners and educators. The classrooms and workshops are in need of renovations. The proposed infrastructure interventions aim to address some of the challenges that the school currently faces.”

The foundation has prioritised programmes and projects according to the school’s most urgent needs. For the required interventions, it suggests allocating academic targets that will be incentivised with additional infrastructure improvements. This will ensure the school remains determined, goal-driven and inspired throughout the five-year adoption.

From humble beginnings

Moses Maren Mission Technical Training High School began after Pastor Moses Maren extended the Olifantsvlei Primary School to accommodate all the children of the surrounding farms. Before that, children had been forced to return to farm labouring jobs after completing grade seven – standard five at the time – because there was no high school to continue their education. This inspired Maren to establish a high school with academic and technical training education.

CSImoses insideMobile classrooms complement existing school infrastructure

After much deliberation with the department of education, mayor’s office and city council of the time, it was concluded that Maren could not build the high school because of the apartheid policy in force at the time that did not allow higher education in rural areas. Children on farms had to join the farm labour force after a primary education.

The directors pointed out that they had looked at Maren’s initiative of breaking the policy of one teacher to create a multiple teacher school by building the additional classrooms. They felt the primary school was sufficient for the farm children.

Maren said: “In 1993, Dr Mundell (a director) drives to the mission… which was then in Olfantsvlei Primary School alongside the principal’s office. He presented me with a document stating that permission is granted provided that the minimum number of classrooms to be built is 21 classrooms before the operation of the school.”

This was a blow as the pastor only had the funds to build a few classrooms at a time. He would only have been able to accommodate children to grade eight, or standard six. In 1994, when South Africa became a democracy, Maren registered the high school with the Department of Education and built the first 12 classrooms. Later, more classrooms with a technical block were added, with an incomplete administration block. In the beginning, Maren hired a wooden structure from which the school’s administration work was conducted and to use as a principal’s office.

Since opening, the school has created jobs for the local community in the construction of the buildings; it has also created lifelong employment for teachers and other workers.

In an article in Die Burger newspaper in 2000, writer John Stephens pointed out that Eikenhof was south of the Joburg CBD, where the old Johannesburg – Vereeniging road crossed the Klip River. This was the farm of Christiaan Neethling, who had moved northwards from Stellenbosch during the 1880s.

After repairing wagons in Kimberley for a short while, Neethling moved further north and bought his farm next to the Klip River. This is where he began planting his bag full of acorns, which he had brought with him from Stellenbosch – it was the start of Eikenhof, which means “court of acorns”.

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