Hope shines at Mountview Secondary School
21 June 2011 - Hanover Park is often in the media for all the wrong reasons – the community has long been crippled by gangsterism and drug abuse – and growing up there is no easy feat. Many children come from broken homes, and the streets in which they play are also the turf of local gangs.
But Mountview Secondary School has taken a stand against this, making sure that children have a safe space to be with their friends – on the sports fields and not on the streets. “Mountview is a beacon of hope, a safe heaven, a lighthouse of educational values and care for our learners and the community,” says Archie Benjamin, principal of the school for nearly 20 years.
In 2007, the school was identified as one of the worst of the 65 critical schools in the Western Cape by the Department of Education, and this was confirmed in a study by the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention (CJCP). It was clear that there was an urgent need for programmes to address safety, security and life-skills issues at the school level.
One of the interventions introduced was Sport for Development. Initiated by Department of Education (DBE) and UNICEF the programme utilises a life-skills approach to allow for positive behaviour change through sport and recreation. The programme is based on the principle that sport is not only crucial for the development of healthy bodies and minds, but that it is a platform to empower children and young people with valuable skills.
And since the launch of the programme three years ago the school has worked closely in partnership with the community, supported by the DBE and UNICEF, to address safety at the school. Although challenges remain, the school has been successful in improving safety and academic results, and establishing strong relationships to keep the momentum going.
June 2011 saw the official launch of new multi-purpose playing facilities at the school, which form part of the support to the school from UNICEF. On the day of the launch dozens of learners, their families and community groups arrived on the sunny winter’s morning to celebrate the new facilities. To start the day’s proceedings a group of 100 set off on a five kilometre fun walk from the school, in the spirit of healthy lifestyles.
During the launch Moenier Abrahams, a learner at the school, shared a story that points to the power of sport to transform young people’s lives. He told the audience how after his parents separated a few years ago, he blamed himself. Upon starting high school, he befriended a group who discouraged him from doing his homework and pressured him to smoke dagga (marijuana). He was headed on a dangerous road but when Moenier started playing rugby at school with another group of boys he realised the mistake he had made. He believes it is by participating in sport that he was able to break away from the destructive influences in his life.
After the official ceremony had ended it did not take long for the children to the take to the fields. While the Mountview boys’ football team warmed up with the Cape mountains behind them, the girls began a tough netball game on the newly constructed court. The excitement about the new facilities was palpable, and those who were not playing fiercely supported their teams from the sidelines.
Mountview star 800 metre runner, Ryan Fredericks was especially vocal about the new athletics track saying, “It will be so good to have a track. The old field used to hurt my feet.”
The new facilities will further enhance the sport for development programme at the school, giving the children first-class, safe fields and courts on which they will receive coaching and life-skills education. A new solid fence has also been erected around the entire school property allowing the school to control access on to the grounds, further improving safety and security.