Hoërskool P.J. Olivier is a combined (Gr. 00-12) co- ed school. The school is open to Afrikaans first and third language speakers in the broader Grahamstown community. We have 375 pupils and 20 academic staff members; 50% are paid by the school governing body. The school achieved an average Grade 12 pass rate of 94% over the past six years.

The position of school principal comes with huge expectations and a lot of challenges that alternate between assuming a leadership role and managing the day-to-day running of the school. The Rhodes Business School’s Principals’ Programme creates the space where principals can engage in critical thinking on what the roles and responsibilities of the principal should be, and how best to approach leadership in our schools and communities. The contact with colleagues has broadened our perspectives and enlightened us to the fact that we are faced with similar challenges on a daily basis. As a new principal it was a wonderful opportunity for me to meet and share my concerns with my colleagues who have the experience I lack.

What would you say needs to be done to improve government school education in Grahamstown and nationally? What would make the principal and teachers’ job easier and help learners to achieve their full potential?

Please bear in mind in reading my suggestions that I’m speaking as a new principal who took up this position this year:

  • Minimise bureaucrats and bureaucracy so things can get done much quicker, including appointments, funding etc;
  • Address the undue and destructive influence on school education of certain politicians and unions;
  • Revive the old system of inspectors visiting schools to assist with problems. Appoint successful principals to these positions;
  • Better training of education students – young teachers are out of their depth when they arrive at schools;
  • Minimise class sizes across the board to 25;
  • Introduce longer school days – increase teaching time;
  • Place a percentage cap on spending on items in school budgets not directly related to the education of learners;
  • Introduce formal exams across the country in Gr. 3, 9 & 12. No learner may be promoted without meeting the requirements;
  • Establish more technical and vocational schools with funding from the private sector (SETA);
  • Mother-tongue educations in Grade 00-3, introduction of first additional language in Grade 3 and second additional language in Grade 7.