Paarl Update Feb 2023
West Surrey Circle Liaison visit to Mary Help of Christians Primary School E Paarl Western Cape South Africa
Visit report February 2023.
Chris Lowther immediate past president of West Surrey Circle and his wife Ann are regular visitors to Paarl in the Western Cape in South Africa and have established a long relationship with Mary Help of Christians Primary School in Paarl. During a recent holiday, they were both invited to visit the school in February 2023. The visit was at the invitation of the new Principal, Jacques Fouche who took up his appointment as Principal in October 2022 having worked at the school for 9 months where he was responsible for infrastructure and introduction of IT in the school. His wife is among the new teachers the school has recruited this past year. He is a very energetic, enthusiastic, and impressive teacher who has many skills and has introduced updated and refurbished IT systems and equipment thus saving considerable sums of money for the school. He had previously taught at Holy Cross Secondary School in Cape Town where his brother is the principal.
West Surrey Circle raised some £10,000 over the last three years in an endeavour to help the school during the Covid Pandemic and in facilitating physical improvements to the school. These have included the refurbishment of 3 classrooms and the introduction of Wi-Fi, computing, and Interactive TVs with Computers for Years 3, 6, and 7. This has revolutionised the learning experience for pupils in those years. They now have access to educational material from the internet, teachers are able to plan lessons in the IT system to include downloaded or live videos in their lessons. Obviously, more funds will be needed to upgrade all the other classrooms in the school.
Chris and Ann were shown the new facilities and Jacques explained the work which had been carried out at the school since the last visit in Sept 2022. This included the removal of asbestos guttering and replacement with more modern materials thence enabling the plumbing in of water tanks to supply the school with emergency water for the toilet cisterns. This ensures the school can remain open should the mains water supply be interrupted. He also outlined the modern security systems and arrangements which had been installed.
His future plans, given sufficient funding, as well as providing Wi-Fi and Smart Boards in all classrooms include the building of 2 new classrooms in the grounds to replace some very small classrooms which could then be used for other purposes; the transformation of one of the buildings nearest the school gate into an admin and reception area to increase the security of entry into the school, rebuilding of perimeter walls, razor wire, etc. to improve security yet more. He has introduced a tuckshop to allow the children to buy properly approved small items so that they do not buy unsuitable or unhygienic products elsewhere.
Chris and Ann visited the school again to give a presentation to all grade 7 children using the new technology that had been installed in their classrooms. This was followed on another day by balloon car workshops for each of the grade 7 classes.
Chris and Ann delivered a suitcase full of educational material for technology classes including: an IMechE education toolkit; K’nex kits, balloon cars; and other educational material.
They also discussed the twinning of MHOC with Binsted Village C of E school in Hampshire which has been a longstanding agreement in principle but has not progressed any further to date apart from the donation in February 2022 of clothes from the Lost property office at Binsted.
The most significant news is that as a result of the efforts by the principal and his staff, the school has very successfully fulfilled the needs of the accreditation process required to stay open as a school and is eagerly waiting for the results.
In summary, the school has taken giant leaps forward in the last 9 months, and under the guidance of a committed and energetic new principal, supported by a committed Governance and Administration Committee should continue to improve. One idea might be to set up a charitable trust in the UK for the benefit of the school to allow donations to be made from the UK and help the school achieve its aims. This might also facilitate the continuation of the link between the school and West Surrey Circle, and possibly other Circles, in future years.