It’s back to where it all began for new Clarendon principal

For Fort Hare education lecturer Dr Melanie Drake, her appointment as the new principal of Clarendon Primary school is a feeling of “coming home”.

Dr Melanie Drake – being back is music to her ears

Not only did Drake, 37, attend the school for 12 years, she has also taught there – first as a teenaged guitar teacher, and later, after she graduated from UCT with a B.Mus (education) degree, as a music teacher for four years between 2003 and 2007.

“I am so excited. I am so passionate about Clarendon as a school and also passionate about girls’ education. When I was interviewed by the governing body, I said I would not be in the business of creating pretty princesses. My vision for Clarendon girls is to be empowered, confident, outspoken, deeply empathetic girls who will be a voice for the most disempowered members of our society.”

Drake, takes over from outgoing principal Pam King, who is retiring after 25 years at the school.

Drake spoke with energy and enthusiasm about revolutionising the school environment, upskilling teachers, bridging the gap between resourced and under-resourced schools and ensuring girls are introduced to robotics, artificial intelligence and computer programming – the “future language” of the world.

She will be taking up the reins at her alma mater – which also educated her mother and aunt – in the new term after completing her current stint at the University of Fort Hare, where, as senior lecturer, she has been teaching novice teachers.

Drake also brings to her new post her international experience in Auckland, New Zealand, where she obtained her PhD in education after being awarded the International Commonwealth Scholarship.

“All of a sudden I was with a panel of educationalists from all corners of the world and our common mission was to establish passion for education advancement in teaching and learning.”

This exposure to other curricula as well as a progressive world view and an ingrained fervour to keep education abreast of the 21st century would stand her in good stead to lead Clarendon Primary.

“When I think of my role as a principal, I think of two things; being a custodian of teaching and learning and being a developer of people. Also I want to ensure Clarendon girls see themselves as fiery individuals who will contribute authentically to the issues society is facing. There is no room for ‘quiet ladies’.”

In an embodiment of her hands-on approach, Drake will also teach Grade 7 leadership and management training (LMT) and Grade 4 social skills which is part of the life orientation module.

“I think it’s really important that a principal interacts with learners and teachers and it is so important that I get to know every learner so I can provide individualised support to any challenges they are facing.” — barbarah@dispatch.co.za

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