February 15, 2016

An Essay by Jacqueline Kruger: "Teaching on the Cape Flats"

Teaching on the Cape Flats

"Butterfly" by shameeg van Schalkwyk

I did not choose Heideveld High, Heideveld High chose me. I have been at this school since 1983- fresh from university, helping out during November and December.
The area is an impoverished one. People are really very poor. They struggle to make ends meet. You will see a lot of unemployed people in the area. Most of the residents are unemployed because they left school early or lack basic skills.
Our learners walk to school. We have a huge problem with latecoming and are trying our best to deal with this. But how can we? If you do not have food to eat, how can you afford to pay for transport?
We have three home languages: Afrikaans, English and isiXhosa. We offer a number of subjects. Unfortunately we do not offer art and dancing. We are lucky to have it as extra-mural activities. Many learners are academically challenged and do not get additional support from the authorities.
Heideveld is also an area where gangsterism is a major part of the community and rival gangs often disturb the peace. Unfortunately we have school-going gangsters as well. Teachers at our school do not tolerate any form of violence at the school. We have systems in place to deal with any gangsterism activities. Learners who fight, get suspended and must appear before a disciplinary hearing. In extreme cases learners get expelled. That is something that doesn’t really happen. We do not want our learners on the streets. Whenever shooting or fighting between gangs take place it is always after school, when the teachers are safe at their own homes. A few of our learners have died at the hands of gangsters. Such incidents either took place after school, weekends or during holidays.
As with many areas on the Cape flats, Heideveld has the same socio-economic problems. People were relocated to Heideveld under the Apartheid Regime in the 1950’s .With the passing of the Group Arrears Act, individuals were forcefully  removed from Cape town Central Business District and surrounding areas because of the colour of their skin, and most ‘coloureds’ or mixed race people live in the suburbs on the ‘Cape Flats’, which is a flat area between Table Mountain and the Atlantic ocean.
Challenges that we are faced with daily:
  • Substance abuse by learners
  • Teenage pregnancies
  • Illiterate learners who have been passed on through the education system.
  • Learners with a disregard for recycling and who litter the school premises every interval.
  • Learners without writing books.
  • Parents who ignore registration due dates to ensure a place for their children at the school
  • Learners who do not hand in their textbooks at the end of the year. (yes, learners don’t buy their own textbooks!)
  • Latecoming
  • Parents who do not pay the school fees of R500 (Rand) per year
  • Learners who drop out of school without a senior certificate
What do we (the teachers) do?
  • We try to instill a culture of reading. We have an Argus Newspaper Quiz annually where each learner is expected to read the paper. They then compete in class groups.
  • We have extra-mural activities. This includes:
-Basketball: we have the BEST team!!!
-Visual art classes
-Steelband: plays at the Cape Town Festival on a regular basis
-Fieldband : gets invited to travel and play in other provinces
-Peace Club: this is a community outreach. Last year we had a knitting project. Teachers were knitting blocks that was sewn together for blankets. Four hospitals benefitted from this. We have an annual high tea for the elderly in the community where they get treated and spoilt.
*Our feeding scheme feeds the needy learners. We are also starting a vegetable garden that    will be used for the feeding scheme.      
One of the major challenges that we are facing is oversized classes. Some classes have more than 40 learners. The department determines how many teachers there should be at a school. This is determined by the number of learners at the school. It does not always make sense. I am the grade head of the grade 10 this year. My one class has 49 learners. The classes are too small for this class. This is where crowd control comes in. As a teacher you need to control the crowd. Teaching this huge class is a challenge for any teacher. What makes teaching easier is the fact that 17 classes were equipped with smart boards last year. Technology at last! We have a state of the art Physical Science lab. Our principal and deputy go to great lengths to look for funding to improve our school. We have two computer labs. When we do take learners into the labs we need to keep an eye on them because some of the learners vandalise and steal the equipment.Sad but true.
Matric is the last level of learning where successful pupils obtain their Senior Certificate. Every year we have a matric dance for the learners. These matric dances are not cheap. The teachers go all out to make this event memorable. We have a few teachers who sponsor a poor learner to pay for their tickets and also help them buy clothes for this evening.
All is not doom and gloom at Heideveld High. Our learners also go to university to study. We have produced quite a few very successful adults! And they do give back! Whatever project we have at school, I put on facebook and I appeal to our ex-learners to make contributions. They jump on board! That is what makes teaching worthwhile. As a teacher we never get to see our end results, but the fact that our ex-learners are giving back, tells me that we at Heideveld High are doing something right!  
You do not learn to be a teacher, you are born a teacher. I believe I was born a teacher. I am very passionate about my work and especially about the learners. I love my learners, even those troublesome ones!  
I encourage my learners to travel the world. I know for most of them it is not possible but a girl can dream right?
Jacqueline Kruger
Teacher : Heideveld High

About Jacqueline Kruger:

I am Jacqueline Kruger a 54 year-old high school teacher on the Cape flats, South Africa.
I teach at Heideveld High where I am a Head of Department, as well as the Subject Head for Afrikaans, one of the 11 official language in South Africa. I live in Belhar, Cape Town, South Africa in the Western Cape Province, one of 9 provinces in the country. I teach Afrikaans Home Language for grade 10 to 12 and Afrikaans Fisrt Additional Language for grade 8.
I obtained a BA degree from the University of the Western Cape, where my two majors were Afrikaans and History.
I am a single parent that has raised a son, who is now a 27 year old civil engineer. I have always strived to ensure that my son does not lack anything.
I have been teaching for the last 32 years at the same school. In my younger days I was also the athletic coach for our athletic team. I am also the grade head for the grade 10’s. I oversee all aspects with regards to the learners. This includes disciplining , fees collection and class allocation.  At our school we have many projects and I am always one of the “front people”.
I am also a lead teacher at the Department of Education. I tutor Afrikaans Home Language for matrics who need support. This tutoring happens every Saturday.
Apart from teaching , I also joined the Butterfly Crafters who knit vests, beanies and blankets for the premature babies at Tygeberg Hospital. I am in charge of two groups that are knitting for these premature babies.
I work diligently to better the lives of the disenfranchised community I teach in and am proud to be able to give them the tools of life in a new democracy.

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