Schools need school halls

Ernest Moore with the school choir on the stage

Sullivan Primary School Hall Opening Ceremony
On Saturday, I was as excited as a child having a birthday party. Sullivan Primary School celebrated the opening of their school hall, thanks to the generosity of the main sponsor, The Archway Foundation. Everything was fabulous, from the superb, engaging master of ceremonies, Aden Thomas, the highly engaging speeches, the entertainment, right to the food provided by local caterer, Jeremy.

This is what I like about community celebrations: the collective joy to embrace and acknowledge your neighbour's achievement. Prior to the event, facebook was already buzzing with 'high fives' and 'vivas' to wish Ernest Moore and his community well. When Ernest posted that he had picked up someone else's" ball of nerves", he was probably spot on. That is just how the community DNA works - everybody feels your joy, pain or nerves! And the new school hall was worthy of such emotional rollercoasting.

School Halls are Necessary
I think alumnus of Sullivan Primary school and keynote speaker, Prof. Jonathan Jansen, summed up our role well. He said we work to make a difference in the lives of others. In schools, we work to improve the lives of our children. Big monies and big actions are important, but it is the small, quality things that we do, that make the difference.

Small things behind the scenes
This insight is so true. I see this in my dealings with schools on the Cape Flats every day. I see children doing drama, ballet and art in the absence of studios at the schools. I see children walking half a kilometer to a school hall down the road to rehearse for their School concerts. I see schools hiring fancy school halls or venues to host their Awards ceremonies to capture the dignity of both event and recipient. I also see children who receive food at school, sitting in spaces that could make them feel small.

I see schools hiring sportfields to have their annual athletics events because they do not have the facilities. I see children sitting in the blazing sun or standing in the icy cold weather during school assemblies, while I sit on a comfortable chair on the stoep. I also see schools gracing the Artscape stage during the School Arts Festival Gala event, knowing those learners had to perform their acts in makeshift spaces at their schools.
Lavender Hill High School's Hip Hop cast at the Artscape School Arts Festival Gala evening

Schools make things work

The difference is that I am the observer, while the schools do these uplifting acts intuitively.These are the small, but important powerful things that schools do consistently in the absence of basic infrastructure like school halls. These are the things schools do against the odds, often at great economic and psychological costs, for their children. Often more time and money are spent on travelling to and fro to suitable venues, but schools take these sacrifices in their stride.

You see, school halls and other basic infrastructure do not miraculously create transformative, quality cultures at schools. Such cultures are established by caring, relational school principals and their staffs. We see the evidence of this all the time. But, schools should not be hamstrung in their pursuit to drive quality education services. Schools should have basic, quality infrastructure like school halls to enable them to provide quality education for our deserving communities.

This is a small, yet profound enabler to foster community wellbeing on many levels. Schools need to be dignified community spaces with big roots and wide wing spans to make our children fly. Like a school library, a school hall is a necessary feature. That's it. Full stop.

Sullivan School Hall will serve a larger community

Now that Sullivan Primary School has a school hall, the neighbouring schools have access to a super venue on their doorstep - that is, until they too have their very own community hub on their own school premises. I can't wait to have our SMT workshop or conference on the fantastic mezzanine and balcony sporting the Muizenberg mountains in the distance!


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