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Poor Cape Town primary school gets innovative to keep pupils safe

09 June 2020 - 16:16 By Philani Nombembe
Christal Williams teaches grade 7 pupils at GJ Joubert Primary in Strand, Cape Town, on Tuesday.
Christal Williams teaches grade 7 pupils at GJ Joubert Primary in Strand, Cape Town, on Tuesday.
Image: Esa Alexander

A Western Cape school has refused to let a lack of funding and space stop it from providing pupils with a safe learning environment.

Teachers at the GJ Joubert Primary School in Strand have constructed shields on each pupil's desk, using wooden frames and transparent plastic.

The brains behind the innovation is veteran teacher Angus Hartley.

“We have a problem of distancing in our classes and I inquired [about buying screens] but they were very expensive for our school,” said Hartley.

“So I came up with this idea. We put the frames together and other teachers covered them with plastic. The only cost we incurred was for the screws and staples. So it cost us R400 for the 100 screens. We have the plastic and we picked up the wood from a wood factory.

“Now we are busy with the grade 6 screens and we will make them as other grades are phased in.”

Grade 7 pupils at GJ Joubert Primary in Strand get used to the new normal.
Grade 7 pupils at GJ Joubert Primary in Strand get used to the new normal.
Image: Esa Alexander

Hartley's colleague Natasha Duehia was impressed by the innovation. 

“Things have changed drastically but our learners are very safe,” she said.

“When they come to school they get scanned for their temperature in the morning. They are asked [screening] questions and have their hands sanitised. Then they come to class where we have 1.5m markings for each learner, and the learner sits in the desks which have a shield.

“They get a 15-minute break where they sit at their desks. There is no socialising. They keep the distance even when they leave school. The learners feel safe and the teachers feel safe and we are proceeding with teaching.”

Principal Martin Leukes says his staff are pulling out all the stops to ensure that pupils are safe.
Principal Martin Leukes says his staff are pulling out all the stops to ensure that pupils are safe.
Image: Esa Alexander

Principal Martin Leukes described the school as very poor. He said his teachers always have to come up with innovative ideas to beat the odds. 

“When we were busy measuring the classroom, we discovered that we don’t have the 1.5-metre space between the desks, so we had to think out of the box,” he said.

“We should have 21 learners in a class - that is why we came up with the screens. The screens keep them safe, especially for the droplets. It’s safe for the learners, it’s safe for the teachers, although they wear masks.

“I have very committed teachers. We try our best.”

Leukes said the 111-year-old school is a beacon for the community. 

“There is a lot of crime and violence in the community,” he said. 

“We have 1,136 learners. Community members look after our school also. They see it as a beacon of hope for everybody.

“This is a very poor community. We only receive 40% of our schools fees per year. It is very difficult here.

“Our teachers do a lot of fundraising. It’s very difficult now because we can’t fundraise because of the pandemic.”


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