Sanele Gumada
2 minute read
15 Jan 2018
5:00 am

Getting ready for ‘big school’

Sanele Gumada

‘Turn it into an adventure. Emphasise how exciting it’ll be.’

A lack of public schools is putting pressure on parents, learners and teachers

Anxiety, nervousness and excitement: the emotions that thousands of new grade one pupils are feeling as they prepare for their first day of “big school” on Wednesday.

At an outfitter in Johannesburg, seven-year-old Tshiamo Mogale was trying on his new uniform last week as his father looked on proudly.

“He is very excited. He would often ask me, ‘Daddy, when is school going to start?’” his father, Phumelele Twala, said.

Asked how he is preparing his son for starting grade one, Wandile Tshandu said: “He was in a good nursery, even his English has improved. So at least the transition will be easy.”

Educational psychologist Vanessa Barnes offered some advice: “Teachers should show empathy, compassion and be nurturing, while at the same time putting firm, but fair, boundaries in place. “There needs to be a balance between compassion and setting boundaries. “It is also important for teachers to develop a positive relationship with the parents and keep them up to date on their child’s progress.”

Khanyisile Mabuza, a primary school teacher, said Grade-R was very important because it makes children ready for grade one.

“The learning patterns we use are not that different from Grade R,” she added.

She also emphasised that parents have a responsibility to prepare their child for school.

“We also need the parents’ support because [if it is lacking] that is where the child can fall flat.”

And then there are a lot of socio-economic factors that can prevent a child from succeeding.

“As a teacher, you try very hard to contact the parents or guardians about their children’s progress, but often they can’t be reached.”

According to Barnes parents need to put their children at ease by preparing them in advance and talking to them about their first day.

“They can turn it into an adventure for their children and emphasise how exciting it will be going to ‘big school’. “It is important to anticipate some anxiety and to demonstrate an understanding of this by dispelling any uncertainties they may have. “This will set the tone for a positive experience,” Barnes said.

“Parents are also encouraged to establish a relationship with their children’s teacher and to co-operate with the teacher.”

As parents were bustling through clothing and stationery outlets, it was clear they believed the investment they are making in their children was worthwhile.

In another uniform shop in the Johannesburg CBD, Stanley Muthambi said his son’s first day of school would expose him to new things. Another parent, Amanda Manukha, said giving her child the best education was her priority.

“I just want to give her what I never had. “We’re trying to build a future for them.”


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