Higher mission to help

Nathan Bennett is charged with energy after a breakfast bun made with food donated by local shops and made by school governing body member Nisaa Daniels.

Plumstead High School was a hive of activity recently as pupils, parents, teachers and even the principal got weeding, sanding, painting and fixing fences as part of maintenance work on the school grounds.

The project was the brainchild of Verline Leo who was a parent on the schools governing body until a few months ago before she relocated to Cederberg.

She has continued to support the school through social media and with much help and support from the principal Craig George and two pupils.

Grade 11 athlete Mukendi Makolo took time out from weeding to say that he and his friend Hurriah Lokoto who is in Grade 10, were pitched the idea by Ms Leo.

They jumped at it and despite early morning showers people came, rolled up their sleeves, worked and had fun. They hope that it will be the first of many maintenance sessions and hope to inspire other schools to do the same.

“Who knows, students might find hidden talents, carpentry, plumbing and so on. This is a small beginning of a bigger picture,” said Mukendi, hinting at a surprise in store for teachers at the school’s assembly the following week.

Ms Leo said on Wednesday December 12 pupils arranged a special thank you for their teachers. She said tears flowed as pupils sang and danced to High School Musical’s We’re all in this together. Then two pupils sang Alessia Cara’s Scars to your beautiful, followed by reciting a poem written by Hurriah Lokoto and Sphiwokuhle Sibanda. All teachers and non teaching staff were honoured with a small gift and another parent baked cupcakes for all for them. “This may seem small but impacts on relationships and the schooling environment becomes more positive, breaking down barriers and hostilities between parents and teachers and teachers and pupils,” said Ms Leo.

“And the school now has about 50 pupils who are keen to make a difference at the school. And they’re having so much fun doing it.”

Ms Leo said many high schools are facing daily challenges where children are being bullied, deal drugs or are enticed to join gangs and parents are venting frustration about schooling on social media.

Ms Leo’s mum was a teacher and she is passionate about teaching. “It’s a profession where they must perform optimally every day, despite how they feel and what is going on in their personal lives. They are expected to smile, nurture, be super-beings,” she said.

Mr George was fully behind the project and was fixing a fence. He said it helps to build self-esteem and be productive while not costing a lot. “The school is 60 years old this year and is only scheduled for maintenance in 2025. We asked ex-pupils to come and share their expertise but they have a misunderstanding of what schooling was like when they were here.”

He said there was a different economic climate with parents now struggling to pay school fees and the school has to manage on a smaller budget.