252-283-a worker(names witheld) works outside a classroom where the school opened its doors to learners today. Sicelo secondary school De Deer 09.01.2013 Picture:Dumisani Dube

Johannesburg - Not a single drop of water to drink and pupils at Sicelo Secondary School were thirsty – for knowledge, that is.

Nothing could stop the 647 pupils eager to start their first day at the newly built container school in De Deur, south of Joburg.

Even though the school is still under construction, all classrooms were fully furnished with desks, chairs and a chalkboard.

Pupils were let out early on Wednesday as water pipes were being installed. A temporary water tank and sanitation were set up for the short time pupils were at school.

Sicelo Secondary was one of the four new schools to open this week in Gauteng.

A senior secondary school was to open in Tembisa on Thursday, while a primary school in Olievenhoutbosch and a primary school in Tarlton opened on Wednesday.

Work on these and other schools started in September.

Sicelo Secondary caters for Grade 8 and 9 pupils and is the first high school in the De Deur area.

“Without the community, this school would have never come into being. In such a short space of time a lot has been done,” said principal Thabo Letsatsi.

Resident Gillian van der Westhuizen, also a member of the local community police forum, said it was important for the children to learn closer to home.

“All our children went to schools in Meyerton and surrounding areas, which meant that they had to travel many kilometres every day. There were vast challenges we had to deal with.”

The project began on October 29 and the actual construction started on December 5. A little more than a month later, the school is almost complete.

Councillor Sebenzile Hlengwa said this was the start of better things to come.

“Our priority is for people from more rural areas to see the importance of education.

“A lot are farmers in this area and many are not educated. We want to promote education right here.”.

The children, meanwhile, had an exciting day.

Said an upbeat Grade 8 pupil, Sibusiso Xakeka,14

: “I’ve met new friends already and I like the teachers. I can’t wait to return on Monday.”

Tshepang Makateng, 14, felt pretty much the same way.

The Grade 9 pupil had specifically asked his mother to enrol him at Sicelo.

“We heard there was a new school being built in the area and I told my mother I wanted to attend it.

“There were lots of people here all ready to learn,” he said excitedly.

On Monday, when the children return for their real first day of school, they will have a food programme and running water.

“We want to keep them well nourished and ready to go,” said Letsatsi.

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The Star