Gobabis Private School Aims High

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By Catherine Sasman GOBABIS The privately run Gobabis Gymnasium will add six new classrooms to accommodate primary grades. “There is a great need for this,” said principal Wimpie Silver. “We are also desirous to build our own products to feed into our secondary grades.” Since its controversial beginnings, the Gobabis Gymnasium stands out as a beacon for quality education. Last year, the school attained the third highest Grade 12 results, and sixth highest scores in its Grade 10 results. In the Omaheke Region it attained the best overall results. The school was formed in 2000 amid speculation that white parents wanted to set up a racially separated school. But Silver is adamant that it was established with the primary aim to ensure high-quality education embedded in the Christian faith, and to excel in sporting activities. Founding member of the school, Dr Hannes Nel, also emphasised that it was established because the Ministry of Education gave parents the “cold shoulder” when they complained about a marked drop in standards at the only other high school in the town, Wennie du Plessis. “It was never a racist issue, but we have had continued negotiations with the principal of Wennie du Plessis and members of the education ministry about the worrying standards of the school but no-one was prepared to rescue the situation. Eventually we decided to establish a private school because we did not want our children to have to go to other towns for a better education,” remarked Nel. “We had no other option but to start a private school.” The school charges a yearly fee of N$11 500, with a registration fee of N$1 000 at the beginning of each school year. The primary school will charge N$8 300 per year once in operation. “Private education does not come cheap, but we make sure that learners get value for their money. We keep a close watch on every learner’s academic performance throughout the year.” The school is entirely financed from school fees, “with not a single cent from government”, according to Silver. “We, of course, have many fundraising events during the year to bolster the school’s financial resources.” Teachers are sourced locally, but said Silver, positions are filled to ensure excellence. Learners are also “forced” to take four subjects at higher grade. “Our benchmark is exemption at the end of the school year,” stressed Silver. Adli Esau, senior regional subject adviser, also speaks highly of the school. “The school is a very good source for our regional education office,” confirmed Esau. “In fact, we are busy negotiating for two staff members to do training in mathematics teaching for teachers at our government schools.” Although it follows the required national syllabi, the school has implemented a shortened curriculum, where the last year at school is primarily spent revising earlier lessons. This, according to Silver, is one of the reasons why the school does so well. “This approach takes proper planning and quality teaching. The most important question to ask here is to what extent the learners learn the intended outcomes of each course, and what steps teachers should take to give learners the additional time and support they need to improve learning.”