No, I am not going to give you a discourse on George Orwell’s famous novel, 1984, but rather a short history of New West Secondary School.
Mid-January 1984 saw the birth of Newlands No. 1 Secondary School when the first Principal, Mr K Kandasamy, 2 members of management, 13 teachers, 1 secretary and 165 pupils moved onto the premises.
The school, built by the then Department of Internal Affairs on land expropriated from members of the Indian community in 1968, was completed in 1982 and scheduled to open its doors in 1983. At its inception, the school was known as Newlands No. 1 Secondary School. During the course of the year 1984, ballot forms were sent to parents regarding a name change for the school. The suggested names were Castleview Secondary, Castlehill Secondary, and New West Secondary School. The name New West Secondary School received the highest number of votes.
The pupil enrolment has increased dramatically from 188 pupils at the end of 1984 to a high of 1,493 in 2000, and currently stands at 1,420. Needless to say, we fill all our rooms to capacity, and hence the need for the Department of Education to provide six extra classrooms.
NWSS is a co-educational school which draws pupils from a wide cross-section of society. However, many years before the collapse of apartheid, NWSS admitted for the first time four Black African pupils, albeit with ‘permission’ from the Ministry of Education and Culture. At the time of the historic 1994 elections, we were the centre of international media attention as we had two White pupils who lived in the nearby informal settlement – we had pupils from all four race groups enrolled at the school.
It is the best of times, it is the worst of times…
The last 25 years have seen NWSS grow from a school of a few hundred pupils to a burgeoning pupil population of just over 1,420. As much as the pupil population has stabilized at this figure in the last four years, the resources provided by the state have dwindled. The following are examples of the cutback in expenditure by the DoE to the school:
The number of staff dropped from 50 in 1997 to 43 in 1998 and 39 in 1999. Although it has crept up to 47 over the last two years, it has not kept pace with the increase in pupil population.
Funds for text books have only been recently reintroduced to cater for the new curriculum.
There is no separate funding for library books.
The non-LTSM funding is R80,000-00 per annum. This has to cater for the following: electricity, water and refuse removal; salaries of SGB-employed educators; salaries of General Assistants; cleaning equipment and agents; security services; printing and paper … the list goes on.
But ‘it is the best of times’ also. There is nothing better than a crisis (or two!) to bring out the best in those involved with the school – staff, pupils, members of the School Governing Body, and the broader community. We have forged links with the many stakeholders to ensure that New West Secondary School delivers quality public education to prepare our charges for the challenges of the 21st century.
To this end we are grateful to the many donors who have given so generously to the school to improve the teaching and learning facilities, and we pay tribute to them.