Dawn of new era for J-Bay Comprehensive

Dramatic intervention sees turnaround, official opening of town’s first public high school

Two of Jeffreys Bay Comprehensive High School’s first group of matric pupils, proudly leave school after writing exams.
Two of Jeffreys Bay Comprehensive High School’s first group of matric pupils, proudly leave school after writing exams.
Image: Judy de Vega

The official opening of Jeffreys Bay Comprehensive High School on Friday is a hallmark of the Eastern Cape Department of Education’s vision to deliver modern schools through its rapid school infrastructure programme to communities in the province.

The R65-million state-of-the-art facility, which serves as the seaside resort town’s first public secondary school, is the Eastern Cape DoE’s answer to the educational demands of the communities of Ocean View, Tokyo Sexwale and Pelsrus.

This is in line with Education MEC Mandla Makupula’s commitment to making “a contribution to the emancipation of the poor and the disadvantaged of the Eastern Cape, especially the poor child, prioritising access and improvement of the people”.

Before the establishment of Jeffreys Bay Comprehensive High School in Seaside, the closest government high schools were Humansdorp Senior Secondary School and Lungiso Public School in Humansdorp.

Jeffreys Bay pupils had to be transported on a daily basis to Humansdorp for their schooling, with some staying in Humansdorp Senior Secondary’s hostel.

This impacted negatively on their participation in extra-mural activities and sport and the high cost implication put an unmanageable financial burden on parents’ shoulders. This in turn resulted in many children leaving school before completing Grade 12.

The Eastern Cape DoE acted on this demand with the construction of the parallel-medium Jeffreys Bay Comprehensive High School, which unofficially opened its doors to Xhosa and Afrikaans pupils on April 21 2015.

Eastern Cape DoE spokesman Mali Mtima said the school was the first of the province’s rapid infrastructure programme schools, with the department’s vision being to also provide a well-oiled technical skills development section.

“Jeffreys Bay Comprehensive High School is proof that the department’s drive to ensure groundbreaking initiatives, like the establishment of technical high schools in the province, is no longer a pipe dream,” Mtima said.

“As the department, we intend to invest annually to ensure the school becomes a fully-fledged technical high school.”

The provision of the multimillion-rand facility, which was built to accommodate 650 pupils, compliments the dramatic growth of the school from the initial enrolment of 420 Grade 8 and 9 pupils from Pelsrus and Makukhanye primary schools to its current number of 1 057 pupils.

The mammoth task of starting the school from scratch in 2015 fell on the shoulders of two retired principals – Deon Goosen and Eric van Rooyen – with an initial staff complement of 15 teachers.

In 2016, the number of pupils increased to 660 and a Grade 10 class was added. Craig Nicholson was appointed as principal, but left the school rudderless when he was put on temporary incapacity leave.

This crippling lack of management became the biggest stumbling block for the school’s functionality, with the school-governing body (SGB) expressing their dissatisfaction publicly.

Some of the other main concerns included a dire shortage of teachers, textbooks and classrooms which, since the addition of Grade 11 classes last year and the number of pupils growing to 853, became critical.

At the end of September last year, the new Sarah Baartman Education District inherited the school. After a thorough assessment, the district management, in consultation with MEC Makupula, decided on a dramatic six-month intervention strategy.

And dramatic it has been indeed.

Enters Sarah Baartman Educational District labour relations circuit manager and Education Management Information System (Emis) specialist Garth Jacobs in January this year as administrator.

And the timing has been perfect, with 2018 being the first year that Jeffreys Bay Comprehensive High School boasts 45 Grade 12 pupils.

The intervention started on January 8 with the 45 matriculants getting a head start on the academic year.

Prefect and Grade 12 pupil Gorgeous Kitsana, from Loerie, praised the “caring and patient” teachers who go “the extra mile” to help pupils achieve.

This is echoed by fellow Grade 12 pupil Charlize Kleynhans, also from Loerie.

“It is a great school providing us with such an uplifting environment,” she said.

The matric pupils also receive extra classes in the afternoons, as well as on Saturdays.

“We are striving towards a 100% pass rate,” said Jacobs, who believes in instilling discipline through stable leadership.

Jacobs said another first for the school had been the introduction of sport, which included athletics, rugby, soccer, netball, mixed martial arts, cross country and chess, as well worship dancing, drum majorettes and the formation of a hip-hop group.

According to this passionate former teacher and principal, the curriculum target setting put the school on a performance trajectory that is well above the provincial standard.

“Our academics are sound and the overall pass rate of the institution is expected to improve by 30%,” he said.

The only outstanding issue is the appointment of a permanent principal, which was in the advance stages of being resolved.

Jacobs said the education department had gone “totally out of their way” to meet the school’s demands and ensure the necessary structures were in place.

He praised the assistance of Sarah Baartman district director Nicholas de Bruyn, the department’s parliamentary liaison officer Mzwandile Mampunye and district curriculum senior education specialist Pierre de Villiers.

“We are also fortunate with the Kouga Municipality jumping in to help, cutting our grass, along with Correctional Services helping with our gardening,” he said.

It was also encouraging, he said, to witness the knock-on effect the intervention strategy has had on feeder schools, with Makukhanye Primary also getting more classrooms to accommodate their pupils.

Putting JBCHS back on track

  • Appointment of Garth Jacobs as administrator;
  • Appointment of additional teachers to grow staff complement to 32 (two Funza Lushaka Bursary teachers, seven temporary and two substitute teachers);
  • Advertisement of principal’s post; ý Grade 12 textbooks; ý Additional learning teaching support materials;
  • Remedial programmes in maths and comprehension for Grade 8 classes, as well as maths and accounting (in third term);
  • Science kit and extra chemicals worth R60 000 for two science laboratories. This will be in and collaboration with Eskom’s TracSA programme, which will also provide assistance in physical science experiments every Tuesday;
  • Six new classrooms (in addition to the six prefab classrooms that were delivered last year);
  • 18 computers for administration and towards the school’s computer laboratory;
  • Eskom to deliver on memorandum of understanding (MoU) in third term – one fully equipped computer laboratory, 10 computers with WiFi and telematics for the media centre;
  • Eastern Cape Department of Sport and Recreation to provide sport kit and equipment for all the sporting codes at the school.

“As the establishment of Jeffreys Bay Comprehensive High School was a first for the department in the Eastern Cape province since the dawn of democracy, the challenges we have encountered also came with lessons,” provincial education spokesman Mali Mtima explained.

“Hence, we are proud to say the lessons learnt are invaluable and, as such, delivery of stationery, equipment and the general resourcing of the school has provided us with lessons we will proudly share with others as we continue to ensure every district has one of these schools.”

A vision for future growth

The current school is Phase One of a three-phase development plan

Phase Two will consist of five hangers housing a technical section, where the focus will be on skills development.

Phase Three will be a hostel facility to accommodate 500 pupils from the surrounding farm areas.

According to provincial Department of Education spokesman Mali Mtima, Phase Two and Three would happen “very soon”.

Mtima said the department urged “compatriots and the private sector to also invest in this initiative, as it will address the skills shortage in the province, especially in the technical field”.

“These will help to ensure the employability of our children as we currently lack these skills, especially in this region, known for its automotive industries,” he said.

This article was written in partnership with the Eastern Cape Government.