Effect on the children has been remarkable says Principal
‘It lights up the children’s faces’. For Principal Brian Arendse, if the new hall at Aloe Junior High School in Lentegeur did nothing more than that, the 32 years of waiting would have been worth it.
Last year, Mr Arendse’s school came to the attention of the Garden Cities Archway Foundation that has, over the past 10 years provided more than 50 halls to disadvantaged schools in the Western Cape. Now, the hall is completed and last weekend (September 21) it was opened by the Foundation’s Chairperson Mrs Myrtle February.
The Foundation is working to redress the fact that 750 schools, teaching over one million children, remain without a hall in this province alone. The halls so far have cost over R200 million, at a current unit cost of over R5 million.
‘I’m not inclined to be asking for anything,’ says Mr Arendse, who has been at the school, built in 1982, for nearly 30 years of its existence and principal for 17. ‘And a hall seemed like a really impossible dream, so we just went on having our assemblies and even prizegivings, day or night, in the quad, outside in all kinds of weather.
‘But someone must have whispered something to someone else, and last year I got a call from Andre Alexander of the Garden Cities Archway Foundation who said they had in mind to give us a hall! Of course, I didn’t blink an eye, but in reality I was speechless.’
Now, with the hall complete, it is an integral part of the children’s lives. ‘They love it, you can see the pride in their faces. That alone is a reason to have the hall, but it offers so much more, by way of opportunities for indoor sports, theatrical events, fund raising and extended school programmes. And that is without the benefits it has for to the residential community around the school, where it has injected a sense of pride. It is, right now, the only hall of its kind in the entire area. It’s going to make a huge difference,’ says Mr Arendse.
The school buildings were originally intended for primary education and only in 2005 did it become a junior high, catering for pupils from Grade 7 to Grade 9.
Garden Cities’ Group CEO John Matthews, for whom the provision of halls to the under-resourced schools of the Western Cape is an abiding priority, says that while all schools should have a hall, some are specially deserving. ‘And Aloe Junior High is definitely one of those schools.’
Principal Arendse says that the school’s demographic determines that there are additional difficulties both in teaching and in the results achieved. ‘But we are particularly proud of the rising pass rate that reached over 70% for Grade 9 last year, and the near-90% pass rate for Grade 7. It means that the improvement will be exponential as those children in the lower grades progress through the school.’
The hall, he says, will make a measurable difference. Already the school, notwithstanding its limited resources, provides sport in the popular codes including football, rugby, netball and table tennis. It takes part in the civic programme Project Citizen and also mounts cultural events.
While the hall at Aloe Junior High was funded and built by the Archway Foundation, the school made an enormous fund-raising effort and raised a substantial sum towards its construction.
The Archway Foundation, funded by the profits of 95-year-old Cape Town suburban development company, Garden Cities, has a Sisyphean task and, like that of the ancient king of Corinth, it may never end, says John Matthews. ‘The need is enormous and growing’.
The Foundation invites other corporations to share in the investment for the provision of this vital resource, which in a wide survey of principals came up as absolutely essential to a holistic education.
He can be reached on 021 558 7181