Today we spoke with Mr. Cupido, Principal of the Emil Weder High School. The school, with about 600 students, is located in Genadendal, 5km from Greyton, and is the only high school in the two communities. Despite Mr. Cupido’s vision and passion, the school is hampered by both financial difficulty and a stiff resistance to change- yet against the odds the school has made an impressive improvement in the five months that Mr. Cupido has been principal.
We heard of the problems facing the school on a day to day basis, ranging from substance abuse, teenage pregnancies and failing students, to the lack of teachers, dwindling funds for maintenance and lack of parental support. The picture was overall bleak, but through it all shone Mr. Cupido’s drive to see change in the school. He practically lives at the school in the small boarding facility on site, and takes an incredible amount of care over individual students, despite the pressures of the position.
Behind the office was a half-finished vegetable garden. The idea is that if the school can produce enough vegetables then it could run a school or community kitchen, as well as sell or barter the surplus. Whilst not all of the students are keen on gardening, many are from agricultural families and are keen to see the garden flourish. An agreement has been reached with some of the local farmers to donate the plants for the garden, but it is at this point that the project has snagged. The school cannot afford the transport costs to collect the plants or buy the equipment.
This was just one story amongst many, filled with both hope and frustration, but what was evidently clear from this morning’s meeting was that there is an incredible amount of potential in this community, and specifically in the school’s importance in Genadendal.
In the Theewaterskloof Municipality 2030 Vision Report, Genadendal is identified as the potential cultural centre of the municipality, and the school as the centre for teacher training and Afrikaans education. The history of the place is already there, and as Mr. Cupido pointed out, a change in mentality is what is needed to step forward into the future.