Johannesburg - As a cleaner, Priscilla Moono is under no illusions as to what her meagre wages can afford: groceries and other basic necessities.
But this has not prevented Moono, 30, of Bramfischerville in Soweto, from sending her daughter to an “expensive” former Model C school in one of Joburg’s prime suburbs in search of a better education.
Moono imagines her daughter as a lawyer or a manager of a top company, a profession that she aspired to as a youngster. She hopes to find solace for her unfulfilled dream in her daughter’s success.
“It’s a s**t job that I am doing. I don’t want my child to be like me. I want the best for her,” says Moono, whose daughter attends Milpark Primary School.
Moono, who earns R2 500 a month, pays R370 for her daughter’s monthly school fees and R650 for transport. She also spends R570 on her own monthly transport, leaving her with R910 for groceries and other expenses. Despite this, Moono, like many parents in Soweto and other townships, has no regrets about shunning township schools.
“Here (Soweto), you always see children loitering around during school hours. Even at 8.30am you still see them still walking to school. Yet, they are the first ones to come back. That’s not what I want for my child.”
In Diepkloof, domestic worker Cynthia Mahoa feels the same. From primary school, Mahoa sent her child, Rethabile, to school outside the township.
At 15, Rethabile now attends John Orr Technical High School in Milpark. Mahoa cannot afford the R7 000 a year in school fees, and relies on help from Rethabile’s grandfather.
“If my child is absent from school, they phone. Here (Soweto), they don’t. Even during school hours you will find the teachers in groups chatting. I would prefer it if my child attended a local school, but with the current situation I can’t take that risk,” says Mahoa.
Every day, hundreds of children commute between townships and Joburg suburbs to attend suburban government or private schools. In some cases the parents are not even sure about the quality of education offered by the schools they send their children to.
“In some schools, I think the children are getting cheated because the standards are low. What they are being taught is not worthwhile,” says Josephine “Jo” Allais.
Allais is a retired teacher who devotes her time to teaching reading and writing to pupils attending some town schools.
“Some of the children have a very poor literacy and numeracy skills and inadequate knowledge in English,” she said.
National Association of School Governing Bodies secretary-general Matakanye Matakanye agreed. “In as much as they take their kids to the town schools, they are not sure whether they are receiving the education they envisage.”
Matakanye admitted, though, that low education standards among township schools was responsible for the exodus of many pupils to the town schools.
“Education has not stabilised in the townships. When teachers go on strike, township schools are the worst affected. Whenever there are service delivery protests in the townships, schooling is disrupted,” said Matakanye.
“Besides, many township schools are still battling problems like overcrowding and understaffing.
“The (school governing bodies) in town schools are able to augment their staff by hiring extra teachers. This is not always possible in township schools, which are fee-free schools.”
Matakanye said it would take much more to rectify the problem than the politically-driven programmes targeted at matrics.
Key to this, he said, was for parents to stop their carefree attitude and take ownership of their schools.
“Currently, parental involvement is minimal. As long as parents don’t stand up and take charge of their schools and take a keen interest in their children’s education, nothing will change.”
His statements were backed by Anthea Cereseto, principal of Parktown High School for Girls. The school is among the former Model C institutions inundated with applications from pupils in townships.
“We recently did a survey at the school (on parental involvement) and the children said they felt like they were a bit of a nuisance to their parents on education matters,” said Cereseto, adding that the parents came from all economic groupings.
“What is worrying is how many of the children felt their parents were not interested in their education or lives.
“It concerns all kinds of parents, from the affluent of suburbs to the poorest townships.”
“It’s definitely not one social class or economic class.”
The school has a strategy to phone parents when pupils have not done their homework or completed their projects, or when there is a case of wayward behaviour.
But even this seems to have done little to change some parents’ mindset.
“Some appreciate it… but some feel annoyed,” she said.
Although the school has parents who are exempted from paying school fees, in terms of the education department’s regulations, Cereseto is grateful that many acknowledge that the success of the school hinges on them investing in its development.
“There are people who can’t afford and they get exemption. So the money that parents contribute pays for the non-paying people. If the balance goes wrong, the school will be affected.” - The Star