With a pass rate of just 38.2% for last year’s matric exams, Lotus High was the worst performing school in the province and prospects were looking bleak, but a retired principal is on a mission to turn things around.
Stephen Price, former headmaster at Bergvliet High School, the top performing school in the circuit, retired in March after 40 years in education, but was requested by the Department of Education to assist the Lotus River school in a caretaker role to bolster the school’s ethos and performance.
Initially he was only supposed to help for six months until December but this has since been extended to June next year and there have already been many positive changes since his appointment at the beginning of the third term.
In the first three months Mr Price realised that there was quite a lot of work to do and said the pupils were demoralised, had low self esteem and are struggling.
“The kids have little hope, not much choice in the circumstances that they find themselves in and as a principal I was very frustrated that these youngsters have very little opportunities to look forward to.
“We had to give them some choice and I knew I couldn’t do it by myself as the governing body and parents are very limited in funds so I took the old adage that a village could raise a child to make a difference in what we call the ‘Lotus way’ where we build the child holistically.”
The mantra of the Lotus way is to build relationships and connections with the children and show them that they are important and valued, said Mr Price.
“When they feel valued they would want to come to school, they will behave themselves and try harder in their academics and through sport and other activities we can give these kids the motivation to do better.”
The school has since started a BackaBuddy campaign which has so far raised about R20 000 to kick-start the school’s resources as many don’t and can’t afford to pay the low school fees.
Thanks to other donations, the school has introduced sport and now has basketball and volleyball equipment but are still in need of used sports shoes, equipment and other sporting essentials. The classrooms will also be painted, the library will be stocked with new books and the school recently received 500 pairs of shoes for pupils for next year and a gardening project will be introduced where pupils are taught to plant, look after veggies to gain skills and contribute to their feeding scheme.
On the academic front, staff are working towards getting their matric results up to at least 50% and 70% for 2024.
Parent Sharon Adams was excited about the new development at the school.
“For many years Lotus High was looked down upon because there were so many challenges but I can already see the changes. I look forward to see what’s in store for Lotus and to see our children prosper because as a parent that’s all you want for your children – I’m very happy that there is some hope on the horizon.”
Along with the BackaBuddy campaign, people willing to help the school can also donate R60 per month to the school through a debit order which Mr Price hopes will help to continue building the school in the long-term.
“We appreciate all the donations and it’s given us a jump start to build the school and we want to encourage people to develop the school and to sustain it through longevity and we can do that if 500 people donate R60 a month.”
Other things needed at the school include stationery packs, censored lights for the corridor and solar panels to save on their electricity bill, contributions to the feeding scheme, couches for the foyer, laptops and computers for staff and pupils, projectors and plants and soil for their gardens.
Other ways people can help is to donate sanitary towels, used school uniforms, paint, or paying the R600 school fee for a child or R2000 for a full uniform.
For more information or to assist, contact the school on 021 703 1544, email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit their Facebook page or donate to their BackaBuddy campaign.