Friday, 18 July 2014

Pinelands North Primary: our families are our greatest resource!

Winsheena and I at St Katherine's Dock, London
I am currently visiting a friend in France. On my way here I spent a week in London and, while there, I spent a few days with Winsheena Smith, one of our school ex-teachers. Winsheena taught grade 6 at Pinelands North and she left us to teach in the United States 
and in England. Sadly for us, she has spent almost ten years in Essex, teaching at Warren Primary School in Chafford Hundred. I am not surprised she has stayed at this school - she lives a couple of steps away from her classroom, and the school is very similar to Pinelands North.
Grade 1 parents and teachers captured at their Red-a-Fair stall
Being at a distance from both schools at the moment has made me reflect on the best schooling in the world. The parents of these two schools are rich because they draw amazing parents!
The grade 6 pupils of Warren Primary left for their week on the Isle of Wight on the morning I was there. Every pupil was accompanied to school by at least one parent who stayed until the bus left. When they arrived at the school, the unity amongst the parents and pupils was palpable - I could see that this community worked and played together! I felt so at home - I immediately could see our parents saying goodbye to our grade 7 pupils earlier this year! After they left I wandered around the playground after the rest of the school had started lessons. I felt the same 'busy quietness' that I feel at Pinelands North....teachers starting the day, children unpacking bags quietly, teacher aides helping children organise themselves, the principal wandering around problem solving where needed.
PNPS dads supporting our Day/Night cricket team
Although Warren Primary is a lot younger than Pinelands North - I think they have just celebrated their tenth birthday - the buildings and furniture of both schools show the same care and attention to detail. Children's work adorns the walls, bright painted walls lead to shiny floors and colourful doors, and every small space is utilised for the children's benefit.
Malika Ndlovu and  Lionel Adriaan after adjudicating the Poetry Competition
The biggest difference between a British government school and a South African public school is who funds the school. At Warren Primary the state provides all teachers, more than 2 teacher aides per class, all equipment, books, buildings and resources. At Pinelands North Primary, most of these are funded by parents themselves: more than half of the teachers, all the teacher aides, all stationery and most of the equipment, resources and even all new buildings!
When interviewing new prospective parents I always discuss the importance of the part they need to play in any school they choose for their families, and sadly for South African families, the economic support is essential for the survival of any good school. The regular payment of school fees has to continue for the school to continue providing money for salaries, resources, extramural equipment, outings and learning support.
Thank you Pinelands North families, for diligently paying school fees, even when life becomes difficult, and thank you too, to those friends of the school and parents who choose to support extra children who then have access to schooling they would not otherwise enjoy!