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Picture: 123RF/ Pay Less Images
Picture: 123RF/ Pay Less Images

The SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) and Equal Education have approached the Western Cape High Court to challenge the province’s collaboration schools model. 

When the action was instituted the province’s collaboration schools were just getting off the ground. Since then the model has produced excellent results, with pupils having access to top learning opportunities.

Collaboration school donors have contributed more than R325m to the schools to date, a contribution to the education sector that might otherwise not have been made. Of the schools using the model, 10 are new and offer more than 8,300 no-fee admissions.

Systemic tests and matric results at these schools are generally positive, but this is not the only reason the model is valuable. Pupils at collaboration schools also benefit from access to opportunities made possible by operating partners whose involvement allows additional resources to support teaching and learning.

The model has also allowed communities to become more involved in establishing schools that serve their needs; this kind of direct parental involvement can only benefit the education system and learners.

I’ve had the opportunity to visit a few of these schools, to hear first-hand from staff and partners about the benefits of the model. Apex High School was voted News24’s Super School 2020 for its innovative responses to the Covid-19 pandemic — its operating partner assisted in creating a website for pupils to access their lessons from home via their mobile devices.

The school’s operating partner has provided excellent additional support in the form of career guidance, helping pupils plan their lives after matric and apply for further studies.

Keepers of the community

During my visit I spoke with a counsellor from Community Keepers, an organisation that provides on-site emotional and psychological support to pupils through its partnership with the school.

It is one of the most sought-after schools in the province, ranking in the top 10 in applications for admission, and is now piloting a blended learning model to offer more pupils quality education.

Jakes Gerwel Technical High School is an extraordinary example of how the collaboration schools model brings together an entire community to serve the interests of its children. Everyone worked together in the design and construction of the school, with members of the community even helping clear rocks from the rugby field by hand. The choice of curriculum was also selected to respond directly to the needs outlined by the community, resulting in a unique blend of technical, agricultural and occupational education opportunities.

I visited Boundary Primary School on the first day of the third term to announce our Foundation Phase intervention to reverse learning losses caused by the pandemic. The school’s operating partner has offered great support to staff. I spoke with a teacher who praised the coaching staff have received, while the principal spoke of the valuable assistance provided regarding financial management. The operating partner has even provided an extra teaching post.

Pupils at these schools are thriving. It is therefore unfortunate that organisations like Sadtu/Equal Education are challenging the validity of our collaboration schools model, which makes high quality no-fee education available to more than 12,300 pupils in poor communities in the Western Cape.

• Maynier is Western Cape education MEC.

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