Zonnebloem opens education centre

Inside the newly established Sunflower Learning Centre at Zonnebloem Primary School.

After 159 years of educating pupils, Zonnebloem boys and girls primary schools have finally received a library, as well as a new counselling service.

The Sunflower Learning Centre, which includes the library, and Community Keepers Centre, providing full-time psycho-social counselling support, were both opened on Tuesday April 25.

The new library is fully equipped with 4 000 books, printing facilities and a wi-fi hotspot, which will allow e-learning to take place. It was funded by the Otto Foundation and The Bookery.

“We’ve studied a number of historical records and spoke to some historians and as far as we can tell, the Zonnebloem boys’ and girls’ schools have never had a dedicated library or school counsellor’s office in their 159 year history,” said project director at the Otto Foundation, Karen Breytenbach.

“This is due in part to the schools being classified as designated coloured and black schools during apartheid, and therefore receiving very little funding from government, and later after 1994, along with all the other schools in the Walmer Estate and Zonnebloem areas, being classified by government as Quintile 5 schools due to their location. In the quintile system, schools classified as Quintile 1 receive the most help from government, and Quintile 5 the least,” said Ms Breytenbach.

She said that intervention was needed to uplift the school as the community was not wealthy.

The Community Keepers Centre will provide registered counsellors, social workers and a psychologist to the pupils, parents and teachers at the school.

The Community Keepers have conducted psycho-social assessment with the teachers to determine what the biggest psychological needs among the children are and will be permanently stationing a counsellor and a weekly visiting clinical psychologist at the school in a prefabricated building.

Both new centres at the school are situated close to the Shine Literacy office which will be collaborating with the library on projects to help boost literacy and a love of reading among Zonnebloem pupils.

The newly appointed librarians speak Xhosa which will play an integral role in helping the pupils to transition to an English-medium school as the majority of pupils are Xhosa home-language speakers who did not go to English-medium pre-schools.

“We are very excited about the possibilities that these safe, nurturing spaces present to the children, during school hours and as an after-school centre.

“About 80% of the learners come to school on buses and taxis, from informal or lower income areas around Cape Town and because there are limited resources for extramurals, mostly end up sitting around on the street corner for hours waiting for their transport. Now they will have a nice place to sit and read and do their homework,”said Ms Breytenbach.

Zonnebloem school principal Deon May said that the opening of the centres present good opportunities for the pupils and he was excited for the pupils to make use of them.

“The school is 159 years old and has been around for a while but we never had a school-based library. We made enquiries via the education department, but funding was an issue. From next week on the pupils will start using the library and they can’t wait.

“In the past the kids would get assignments and they would have no one to facilitate them because parents are at work. Now they have all of this based at school,” said Mr May.