THEY say life begins at 40 – and for Bethesldorp High School that couldn’t be more true. The landmark school has faced many challenges over the past few years including vandalism, a drop in academic levels and desperate lack of funding.
But this year, as the school celebrates its 40th birthday, staff and pupils are determined to turn things around.
And they are stating the year on a high note, with their latest matric results improving dramatically from the previous year.
“The school has always been academically strong, but we need to get the pupils focused,” acting principal Leon Arendse said.
In 2010 Bethelsdorp High’s matric pass rate was a low 56%. Last year it rose to reach 77%.
“This year’s goal is to reach a pass rate of above 80%. That will make me happy,” said Arendse.
The main problem facing the school, which is often called “BD” by staff and pupils, is vandalism. During the December holidays, electrical cables were stolen. In all there were five incidents of theft.
“We have a lot of problems with vandalism. But we have beefed up security,” said Arendse.
Two weeks ago they caught the culprits but one was released because he is under 18. He now harasses and intimidates the staff.
“We are dealing with youngsters with drug habits and who have no respect for school.”
Arendse believes the community needs to get more involved in the school, and take charge.
“This is an issue we need to address,” he said.
Bethelsdorp High receives little support from the department of education, said Arendse, which puts a lot of pressure on the school, financially and operationally.
Many of the parents cannot afford the school fees, so the school has to do fundraising.
Last year, the staff and parents decided to do something themselves and starting with repainting the building.
The school has approached various companies to assist in fixing amenities like toilets and drainage.
Another problem is that the department of education did not pay its substitute teachers.
The school has 1095 pupils and 38 teachers.
Several teachers have either been off sick or have retired. And many are member of the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union, which is currently on a go-slow.
Despite this, the head of the mathematics department, Brenley Bruiners, said the school achieved good matric results and he was proud to have a number of top graduates in various professions.
“The school has a strong work ethic which was in existence since [the late] Dr Raymond Uren, and a rich background we can draw from,” Bruiners said.
Alhough Bethelsdorp High is facing lot of socioeconomic problems, teenage pregnancy, lack of resources and departmental issues, Bruiners said the school was determined to become an institution of excellence as it was known in the past.
Part of the school’s 40th anniversary celebrations is to honour Uren, who was the principal of Bethelsdorp High School for more than 20 years. The sports field will be renamed after him.
Uren was a well-known sports administrator, holding various positions at school, provincial and national level. These included the South African Council on Sport, Eastern Province Council and the SA Cricket Board. Uren was the former president of Eastern Province Cricket Board and a former executive member of Cricket SA.
“He played a great role in school sports and fought for non-racialism in sport,” said Arendse.
As a sports activist, Uren was detained during the 1980s under the emergency regulations of the apartheid regime.
He died on February 5 last year, aged 71.
Anniversary celebrations will start on Sunday with a thanksgiving prayer at 2.30pm at the West End Community Centre. Parents, ex-pupils and teachers are invited to all services. Celebrations will continue until September.
Other anniversary activities include a family fun day, publishing a magazine highlighting events and achievement of the school, a winter ball and selling of merchandise.
“I feel positive for this year,” said Arendse. “We want to celebrate the great things the school has given us and is still to give us.
“We are going to build on the heritage that has been established.”