From ‘Whites Only’ to Democratically Black

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By Sbu Mjikeliso The radical transformation of this school that was, pre-liberation, a dominant ‘whites only’ school to a ‘democratic black’ school makes for interesting reading. I say ‘democratic black’ school because since liberation, a private high and primary school was set up in the Gobabis area. This then caused a surge of white parents opting to take their children to the private school, disregarding the Government’s wish to transform the school into a well integrated one. “The school was solely for whites when it was founded by Wennie du Plessis in 1945,” said school principal Pretorius Magudu, who was appointed in 1997 in an effort to curb the racially motivated strikes at the time. Magudu, a teacher who has gone through the ranks of the education system, was one of three recruits in the Government’s plan to change the complexion of the school. “When I came in ’97 the school had a 17 whites to three black staff members ratio and the student ratio was roughly the same,” Magudu said. But now it seems things have had a turn-around. Blacks now dominate the school’s population of 650 learners and 22 teachers, with a white here and there. On the academic front, the school has done well over the years in their Grade 12 results despite a recent slump in 2003. The Grade 12 pupils did exceptionally well in the first five years while Magudu was in charge, boasting pass rates of over 70%, setting the standard for future learners. Recreational activities at the school have not gone unnoticed. In fact, the school is a regular contributor to the national team codes such as soccer, netball, rugby and hockey. Not forgetting cultural activities, the Traditional Setswana Group has represented the school in the Seychelles as part of a cultural exchange programme. The school choir forms an integral part of the recreational activities. “We are planning to release an audio CD of the choir’s compilations as an effort to raise funds,” Magudu said in a somewhat proud voice. What also pleases him is the controllable level of discipline that the school has maintained during his reign. “Discipline is a challenge in that you must always keep your eye on it. Not so long ago we redrafted the school’s code of conduct with the help of feedback from the parents. On a large scale discipline is not a problem, even with the teachers. But just like any school, you get the odd troublemaker and we are no different,” Magudu said. The principal also mentioned their focus on discipline is a ongoing process which needs constant attention and the way things seem, he has kept a very sharp eye on the students’ code of conduct, with special attention on punctuality in the morning and between classes. Despite the racial cloud that hangs over the school, the principal looks to have done his utmost best to ensure that they focus on the important matters regarding the school, even going to the length of organising a student’s visit to the presidential office in May. What is disappointing though is the fact that the white community has chosen not to be involved in the further evolution of this institution that is: Wennie du Plessis Secondary School.