Community Keepers comes to Ysterplaat

Athina May

Tygerhof and Ysterplaat primary schools, along with Buren High School, will now have access to a social worker and clinical psychologist, thanks to help from a non-profit organisation.

Community Keepers, based in Stellenbosch, offers psychological and social services to selected schools in the Western Cape to help pupils deal with emotional baggage, so that it doesn’t hold them back in class.

Ysterplaat Primary held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday April 7 for its new counselling quarters and welcomed social worker Kim Hendricks.

It’s very exciting; it’s a dream come true, and it’s an opportunity for growth,” said school principal Yolanda Stassen.

“Many children come from homes where they face abusive parents, drug use or neglect. They then come to school and also face challenges with language barriers, but we’re blessed to have help.”

Community Keepers will support both pupils and teachers. Teachers will learn how to identify pupils who need help so they can get individual attention.

“Schools create a safe environment for children, but many kids come from backgrounds where they’re exposed to violence, rape or sexual abuse. This manifests in how the child reacts in class. They may get aggressive, but that’s communicating feelings. We teach the teachers to see that,” said Community Keepers CEO Philip Geldenhuys.

“What we do is deliver the best possible psychological and social support to children and ensure that they are functioning well and are in good positions to utilise the educational opportunity being offered at school.”

The organisation started nine years ago and supports more than 2 000 children in the Western Cape. Provincial head of education, Penny Vinjevold, was at the ribbon cutting and welcomes the initiative.

“Fifteen thousand to 20 000 additional children come into the system every year, and they come hungry and behind academically, Ysterplaat knows all about this. It’s our job to get these children to Grade 12. It has been shown that children who are supported with individual help in their first two months of schooling, managed to catch up to their academic level,” said Ms Vinjevold.

“Interventions to assist pupils are coming together because this school has competent teachers who care. Schools give children the opportunity to get out of poverty, and the results are good for the socio-economic circumstances.”