The Basic Education and Skills Training (BEST) College in Salt River is celebrating 20 years in educating marginalised and vulnerable children.
They invited former pupils, teachers and their partners to mark the milestone last Tuesday, August 27.
Best College first went under the guise of the Cape Youth Centre (CYC), which started their first classes in two shipping containers that educated four pupils.
Social worker Richard Heradien and director Chris Smith of CYC saw the need to educate pupils who were too old to enrol in mainstream schools.
Many of the pupils come from shelters like Marsh Memorial, Lawrence House, Ons Plek, Beth Uriel, St Michael’s Child and Youth Care Centre and Cape Town Multi Service Care while some of their pupils travel from as far as Kraaifontein, Strand and Stellenbosch.
During their 20-year journey they moved from the CYC main building to Marsh Memorial in Rondebosch in 2004 to their current premises at Wesley Training College in 2008.
They also went through a name change , first to Best Centre and since 2016 have been called Best College.
From four pupils in 1999, they now have 172 pupils. Some pupils are doing their level 1 to level 4 training in order to get a Grade 9 pass, which will enable them to enrol in a TVET college, while other pupils are doing their Grade 10 to Grade 12 to earn a senior certificate.
Principal Mark Solomon said pupils have learning challenges so they keep the class sizes small.
The smallest class has 15 pupils while the biggest class has 25.
“What helps them develop is that they get individual attention in a caring environment and we have grown our curriculum over the years.”
Mr Solomon said their former pupils had qualified to become electricians, chefs, preschool teachers, tourism industry workers and performers with the Zip-Zap Circus.
Desiree da Silva has been with the school for 15 years and she said working with the pupils has been a rewarding experience. “We go out of our way for our pupils, we can’t just be a teacher, we need to be the parent, the doctor and the counsellor,” she said.
Grade 12 pupil Kevin Mutata, 20, said it was difficult in the beginning because he had to adapt to studying subjects like maths literacy, tourism and history, though now he is more comfortable with them.
Former pupil Allan Clarke, 28, from Mowbray, now works for a tourism company full time. “When I got here I was dyslexic, I could not read and write,” he said.
He left Best College in 2014, and went on to study tourism at False Bay College. Looking ahead, Best college will include Grade 8 and Grade 9 classes next year.
They don’t have a sports programme as they don’t have a sports field, but that is something that Mr Solomon would like to work on in the future.