President High School’s new principal, Erna Joubert, has vowed to give the school’s more than 600 pupils the best education possible.
Ms Joubert told Northern News she has been passionate about teaching from a young age.
“I taught some friends before I could write my own name and had to bribe my brother to be my student when we were very small.
“When I was in Grade 1, I taught some of the pupils to read while the teacher was teaching maths to another group,” she said.
However when she reached matric, at a school in the small Northern Cape town of Griekwastad, she didn’t think teaching was a “cool” career anymore and opted to study something else.
“After finishing my school career, I headed for the ‘big city’ – Bloemfontein – where I completed my BA Languages degree.”
But after the teaching bug came back with a vengeance, she found herself doing a higher diploma in education at the University of the Orange Free State.
“A firm believer in lifelong learning, I continued to study while teaching and obtained my Master’s degree in linguistics through the University of Stellenbosch,” she said.
Soon she became involved with a group of students who taught Afrikaans as a third language to pupils at a township school.
“My mind was made up. The rest, as they say, is history. I have been in education since 1993, and I have loved every moment of it,” she said.
Her first teaching post was at Kareedouw near Port Elizabeth.
Two years later, she moved to the Western Cape and briefly taught at President High School for six months, before joining JG Meiring High School, where she became the head of department.
At the end, of 2012, Ms Joubert took up a post at Rhenish Girls’ High School in Stellenbosch as the senior deputy principal. She left Rhenish this year to take up her new post.
Outlining her vision for President, she said: “This school should be a place which aims to provide pupils with an education of the highest quality and be committed to providing an environment that is conducive to effective teaching and learning. All pupils, regardless of their intellectual abilities, social backgrounds and academic aspirations, should be encouraged to develop to their full potential, strive for excellence in all they do, and become responsible, caring and productive citizens.”
She urged pupils to: share a sense of responsibility and accountability; support each other; get rid of negative thinking; never be content with mediocrity; and foster mutual respect.
Ms Joubert said CAPS, the national curriculum, had brought a sense of stability to the school system. “However,” she added, “some of the biggest challenges in different provinces remain: poor school infrastructure; poor learning conditions; and a lack of learning materials and trained and motivated teachers at some of our schools.”
The average South African pupil’s maths and readings skills were “shocking” and compared to other countries we were “not doing well at all”.
The nationwide #FeesMustFall protests had threatened the stability of the country’s top universities and some matric pupils were unsure about what to expect next year, Ms Joubert said.
“I do have sympathy for students who want to further their studies, but cannot afford it, but nothing can justify the burning down of university property and the kind of destruction and violence that is going on at the moment,” she said.
“Some of the matrics are looking forward to the prospect of furthering their studies next year, while some are a little bit scared that the institutions where they have applied will not be able to accommodate newcomers due to the current situation, especially at universities.”