Good Shepherd Trust Report to St Andrew’s College Council
As you know, 2020 has been a year like none other in South Africa and worldwide. Since the last Council Report, Covid-19 has struck and although it has caused a huge setback for education, especially in the ‘no-fee’ school sector, Good Shepherd School has made significant strides in getting work-packs out to its learners who have been out of school during lockdown. GADRA Education assisted in compiling resources into work packs for GrR-3 learners and the Good Shepherd staff also created work packs for all learners. The already established WhatsApp groups for the Foundation Phase made it easy to contact parents during lockdown with tasks for learners and all their workbooks had been sent home with them at the end of Term 1. Parents collected new work packs from school and took them home for their children to continue with during lockdown.
The Grade 7s returned on 8 June and classes have been going well with attendance varying between 33/40 and 36/40. They are taught in two separate classrooms and there has been excellent engagement by the Gr7s with their teachers, who are really committed to assisting them to make up for time lost during lockdown.
The return of learners also means that the nutritional needs of these learners has been met through the Breakfast and Lunches provided at School. They have also all received individualised counselling from Rev Dr Claire Nye-Hunter, which has made a huge difference in enabling them to cope with the significant challenges many of them face at home and with their concerns around Covid-19.
We were eagerly anticipating the return of GrR, 1, 2, 3 and Gr6 classes on 6 July (see the photo of the Gr2 classroom, ready for learners to come on alternate days i.e. only one learner per desk each day). However, their return was cut back, in line with the National Minister’s announcement on 2 July, to only GrRs and Gr6s returning on 6 July. Hopefully the Foundation Phase learners (who have now missed almost 100 days of school) will return during the course of July. There is real concern, not only for their educational foundations which are being eroded, but also their nutritional needs which may be going unmet.
Staffing at the School during this Covid-19 period has been fairly stable, with just two teachers off due to age and/or comorbidities, and one gap at Gr3-level due to the untimely death of Ms Christian due to pancreatic cancer (see her Tribute in the Annual Report). The Good Shepherd Trust has managed to secure the services of an experienced remedial teacher, who has been assisting with Gr7 teaching and will do literacy and numeracy support and relief teaching in the Gr3 class as soon as they return. However, due to a significant cut in funding from one of our core donors in 2020, the Trust only has budget to pay her for one month. It is hoped that the Department will pay relief staff, but as always, there are no guarantees that this will happen. This is an issue of serious concern.
Another area of concern for the Trust is that rental from the Department of Education is still outstanding, for over a year now. The Legal Resources Centre are being consulted to pursue litigation as a means to secure this contractual payment and relieve some of the financial pressures facing the Good Shepherd Trust.
The opportunity has been taken to do some essential maintenance work since the School re-opened after lockdown. This included painting of the roof and some other painting work, installation of an aluminium window frame (to replace a wooden window frame that had weathered) and installation of door hooks and heaters.
There will be some delay in reporting assessment results, which should have been conducted in June but the core donors of Good Shepherd Trust have been engaged with regarding this and have been very understanding and supportive.
2020 looks set to be a tough year all round but the management and staff of Good Shepherd School as well as the Trustees are totally committed to do all in their power to ensure that children from poor backgrounds continue to get the best education possible at Good Shepherd School. There was recent good news in this regard in that both the Head Boy and Head Girl of Good Shepherd from 2020 have been accepted at excellent schools for 2021 and have bursary funding committed to making this a reality. Junior Douglas will be coming to St Andrew’s College as a Boarder and Siyolise Adams will be going to Victoria Girls High School.