Millions of rand thrown at the historic alma mater of Pan Africanist Congress founder Robert Sobukwe and former president Nelson Mandela have done little to help the school attain an impressive matric pass rate.
The Healdtown Comprehensive School in the Eastern Cape town of Fort Beaufort obtained a 25% pass rate in the 2019 matric results.
Twenty learners sat the matric exams at the school, and only five passed.
Healdtown’s poor performance mirrored scores of schools across the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo with fewer learners sitting the exam.
The Star reported last week that the cohort of schools with low learner numbers performed badly each year largely because they had inadequate teachers.
These schools were supplied fewer teachers because of their low learner numbers.
Unions have for years been critical of the model the government used to supply teachers to schools.
Healdtown has battled to attain a pass rate above 30% over the last three years.
It attained 23.3% in 2018 out of 30 matrics that wrote, and 24.1% in 2017 from 29 learners.
As one of the institutions that benefited from the Historic Schools Restoration Project, Healdtown’s infrastructure was renovated at a cost of R46million in 2018.
The SA Council of Churches (SACC) and Eastern Cape Education Department contributed the funds that returned the school’s facilities to their former glory.
The Reverend Lulama Ntshingwa, the SACC’s Eastern Cape chairperson, expressed disappointment at the school’s results.
“As the Council of Churches we’ve been supporting the government to ensure that all the historical schools in the Eastern Cape reach a point where we are able to say they are centres of excellence.
“If you talk of 25%, that’s not a centre of excellence,” Ntshingwa said.
He challenged district officials to attend to problems at the school. The district should ensure Healdtown had enough teachers, Ntshingwa said.
Learners from the school protested in 2017 over the shortage of teachers.
Ntshingwa said: “My view is that the (provincial) government and the Methodist Church have done their bit in terms of infrastructure. The ball now is in the court of the officials of Amathole West district.
“The district needs to work with the school and make sure that they provide teachers that are needed there.”
Ntshingwa said he was aware that surviving alumni of the school were planning to intervene. “They’re trying to get some funds for additional teachers. The alumni of Healdtown have a strong view (about the school).
“I think they can contribute in terms of making sure that the pass rate of that school changes dramatically.”
In addition to Sobukwe and Mandela, the school’s illustrious alumni included ANC leader Govan Mbeki, journalist John Tengo Jabavu former vice-president of Zimbabwe Joshua Nkomo and former Botswana president Seretse Khama.
Healdtown’s surviving alumni included businesswoman Wendy Luhabe, former Wits University vice-chancellor, Professor Loyiso Nongxa, and former University of Fort Hare vice-chancellor professor Mvuyo Tom.
Loyiso Pulumani, Eastern Cape Education Department spokesperson, had not responded to a comment request by late yesterday. He confirmed receiving the questions yesterday morning.