Zwaanswyk’s new era

Shandre Otto, the schools first woman principal talks about pupils, education and future goals.

Energy, enthusiasm and rapid-fire discourse are what to expect if you get to meet Zwaanswyk High’s new principal.
Speaking about the school, its staff, pupils and community, against a backdrop of pictures of past principals, all white, all men, Shandré Otto is proud to be the first female at the helm and is looking forward to celebrating their 64th anniversary.

Ms Otto is the former deputy principal of Norman Henshilwood High School (NHHS) in Constantia. Since she took over leadership on January 1 she has been trying to find out about the school’s history, which she believes was founded on February 1, 1953. They are asking people with historical information to come forward.

In Ms Otto’s interview for the Zwaanswyk principal’s post in September last year, she proposed “Zwaanswyk Version 2.0”. When asked to explain she said, “It’s like a first computer programme, that’s the first version.”

Having initiated NHHS Information and Communication Technology program she realised that her passion lies in the transformative nature of technology upon the quality of a lesson.

“The motivation and commitment to learning on the part of a child automatically increases because technology is being used. Children eat, breathe, sleep technology and this [the use of technology in the classroom] allows the teacher to enter this world to benefit the child,” she said.

Ms Otto said she is committed to education and to forging a positive relationship with the pupils and parents. “A new and improved experience of teaching and learning. However I realise I can’t do this without the support of the community and so I’m committed to forging a positive relationship with the kids and parents. This almost guarantees that my goal will be successfully implemented because children learn to value education when they watch their parents show a vested interest in the institution,” she said.

The school draws pupils from the surrounding communities including Lavender Hill, Retreat, Steenberg, Grassy Park, Strandfontein Village and Pollsmoor.

Ms Otto said that in keeping with the theme of collaborative partnerships, they pride themselves on being a community asset. She said the school’s governing body are aware that this school needs to use a different way of doing things. “Our annual school fees are much less than other schools in the area. This makes our school more affordable. Because of this, we may not have the same facilities that neighbouring schools offer, but we have a hunger to better the lives of the pupils we take,” she says.

Some of the challenges are that their 650 teenagers sit on the floor and their desks are designed for junior school pupils. And pupil discipline needs improving and their commitment to doing their homework and projects. “There’s no negotiation here, we need commitment, to set goals,” she said.

And also to pay attention to the matric drop out rate. Last year the school made major strides by increasing its pass rate from 93.3 percent in 2015 to 98 percent in 2016. Ms Otto said they were able to increase their Bachelor’s passes from 46 percent in 2015 to 54 percent in 2016, “But there is always room for improvement”, she said at the beginning of this year.
Towards the end of the term they will celebrate their 64th birthday with a Derby Day of sport matches and are inviting other schools and the community to join them.

If you have information about Zwaanswyk High School, email , or call 021 712 7721.