David Livingstone: Parents not deterred by challenges

David Livingstone Senior Secondary School has been a construction site since 2017 but this has not deterred parents from helping learners with special educational needs receive quality education.Photo:supplied

David Livingstone Senior Secondary School has been a construction site since 2017 but this has not deterred parents from helping learners with special educational needs receive quality education.Photo:supplied

DESPITE construction at David Livingstone Senior Secondary School dragging on for the past five years and still not being completed, a small group of parents and an educator have been making great strides towards ensuring better education for learners, especially the ones with special educational needs.

PE Express has reported on the construction at the school on numerous occasions and how learners have been receiving lessons in temporary structures for years.

It was also previously reported that these worn-down structures could pose safety hazards.

A parent, Jo-Ann Smith, said that learners were still being housed in these structures as they had become permanent use for a temporary fix.

“The structures are, by now, wearing thin and the wear and tear thereof is visible. The structures are also smaller than the other classrooms,” Smith explained.

“Overall, they still suffice on mere lines but both educators and learners have adapted by now and accepted them as it is with excitement to move, looking forward.”

She added that learners were completely separated from the construction site after it was cordoned off.

No one can enter and even someone doing a site visit needs safety wear.

All of these challenges taken into account, a group of five parents and a very dedicated educator, Mandy De Monk, decided that this would not stand in the way of improving learning for learners with special educational needs (LSEN) at the school.

Among the few of them, they managed to get these learners the technical training that they needed.

Having had only one educator for an intake of four consecutive years amounting to 90 learners registered for technical learning, they sent correspondence to and had meetings with the Department of Basic Education (DBE), thereby securing an additional educator through redeployment.

“This school did not have a section for technical learning for LSEN and these learners were drastically sidelined by the DBE.

“The pilot project was initiated [by Mrs De Monk] as the DBE pinpointed the school for such learning, hence the LSEN section.

“Gelvan High also had the programme; unfortunately pupils were told to go home a year ago and to date classes haven’t opened again.

“So, basically, most of the accomplished efforts came because of these classes and the parents,” Smith explained.

The group, that calls themselves The Concerned Parent Group, with Smith being the chairperson, also secured another educator to teach hairdressing skills at the school.

“A mainstream class was given up to accommodate a split on two LSEN classes sitting together.

“LSEN learners returned full time two weeks into the new term as they were only allowed two days in the week due to staff shortage and space.

“A group of just parents, nobody on the SGB panel, managed to do this.

“These are five very committed and passionate parents who came together and caused wheels to start turning.

“The Concerned Parent Group consists of parents of only the LSEN section.

“These learners’ abilities are more technically inclined than mainstream learners.

“Their needs are more hand and learn and physical components than book and pen orientated.

“The aim of these parents was and remains purely in the best interest of the kids and their betterment,” she said.

Further efforts by the group to improve LSEN education, proved fruitful.

They also managed to have gardening and landscaping introduced for boys and hadthe equipment sent by the DBE.

“We haven’t touched the mainstream sector as we are parents of LSEN.

“Our main focus was getting that section in order and we did that in a space of two months which the previous and current SGB failed to do in four years,” Smith said.

The school also had their elections for a new school governing body at the weekend.

Smith, along with fellow parents, Carmen Hess, André De Monk and Shelton Jacobs, were elected to fill the four vacant positions on the SGB board.

Another meeting is set to take place to formally assign certain positions to each member.

Smith said that a set of fresh eyes and appealing ideas were vastly needed where this school is located.

“In the community labelled as Schauderville, we are losing our kids to the streets and if we can allow them a sense of belonging and encourage and build them for better futures then we are headed to victory.”

She added that, apart from building solid relationships with parents who can take responsibility for the learners, the group would focus on making more changes.

“First, for now, is acquiring another structure or identifying one available elsewhere to help split a class of 60, that is currently in the same space yet with different year grades.

“A container was sponsored from Johannesburg, which was sourced by Mrs De Monk, to set up a hairdressing studio, as there was no space to follow through teaching the skill.

“The container will need windows and doors to be cut in and burglar bars for safeguarding equipment, which would be at risk.

“Attention will also be given to mainstream and access their needs, and see the gaps and progress for better pass rates and extra classes.”

Smith mentioned that the project, which was budgeted to cost approximately R74,1 million, could be completed by December this year.