Johannesburg - Back to school went off largely without any hitches in Joburg, with traffic around the schools being the most pressing problem.
As schools opened up across the country, Bryanston Primary pupils Christina Valenti and Tshegofatso Legwale became instant friends on their first day of Grade 1, writes Brendan Roane.
One would never have guessed that Christina had cried this morning, as she now happily coloured in a picture.
She had been in tears earlier, but had been comforted by her new friend Tshegofatso as they talked about dogs.
But the parents of other pupils in the same class said there were no tears as their children couldn’t wait to start “big school”.
“She wanted to come to school on the first day of holiday,” said Helena Libera, mother of little Alyssa.
Her husband Luke said the first day of school had become easier for them as they had been through it before with Alyssa’s two older siblings.
“And she’s also more relaxed,” he said.
Kruben Bennie said his son Mishvan, 6, was “in his comfort zone”.
“I’m excited. It’s wonderful, it’s a big day for him going to Grade 1.”
Then there were those parents who were also experiencing the first-day jitters.
“She’s my eldest so it’s exciting,” said mother of 6-year-old Juniper, Esli Kietzmann.
“I think she was a bit nervous, it’s a big deal,” she said.
Traffic around De La Salle Holy Cross School in Victory Park was a nightmare on Wednesday morning as new and returning pupils made their way back to school.
In the school yard outside the Grade 1 classrooms, parents and pupils milled around waiting for the start of the school day.
There was a distinct absence of tears in Grade 1 as most of the pupils were in Grade R together last year, and are therefore already familiar with the school.
At Rosebank Primary, a Grade 1 parent, Zanele Mashaba from Alexandra, said she had chosen the school because it had been recommended by a friend.
Cosatu and the SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) have called on teachers to dedicate themselves to their work this year.
“We would like to encourage our members and teachers to continue and promote a workaholic schooling environment and deliver quality education,” Sadtu general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said. He said teachers would be working towards the Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign, which called on them to be in school, on time and prepared.
Maluleke said schools were increasingly becoming hazardous places for both pupils and teachers, saying that crime and violence must stop.
“At our national general council last year, we called for more focus on (the problems of) crime and bullying in our schools.
“We also called for the creation of a national registry to be used to track these incidents under the auspices of the Education Labour Relations Council,” he said.
The union was committing itself to continue doing more to improve teacher competencies.
“The quality of public education is directly proportional to our conditions of service as teachers and must thus be prioritised if we are to produce the desired outcomes and move forward as a country,” he said.
Politicians from various political parties visited schools across the province, but Gauteng Social Development MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza this morning visited three schools in Sedibeng in Joburg south to assess the official opening of school and to hand over school uniforms to needy children.
“We are increasing our investment in this programme because we know that when poverty strikes a family, it is the children who bear the biggest brunt,” she said.
The Publishers’ Association of South Africa, one of the largest publishing associations in the country, said it was on time this year with textbook delivery.
The association’s spokesman, Tshepo Mphela, said although there were textbook supply problems in previous years, this year they were prepared.
“This year the delivery of textbooks has been the most successful since the implemen-tation of the National Curriculum Statement.
“Well over 90 percent of textbooks ordered by the Department of Basic Education in 2013 were delivered to govern-ment warehouses and other book suppliers… by the end of October 2013,” he said.
Security at schools is #1 priority
Safety at schools is of vital importance, says Faith Mazibuko, Gauteng MEC for Community Safety.
The School Safety programme is a joint initiative by the departments of community safety and basic education.
This programme aims to assist Gauteng schools to be in a position to detect and respond to safety threats.
This year the safety programme will include the establishment of school safety teams, substance and alcohol abuse prevention plans, including enforcement raids aimed at closing down all liquor outlets problematic to school safety, as well as conducting school searches.
Awareness programmes dealing with child abuse, bullying and road safety will be introduced and police stations will be linked to schools and set up with provincial and station-level school safety desks.
Another plan is to introduce a community patrol system.