The schools that mean busi­ness

The Whole School pro­gramme is boost­ing the pass rate, send­ing more chil­dren to univer­sity and help­ing teach­ers to de­liver qual­ity education

CityPress - - News - SIPHO MA­SONDO sipho.ma­sondo@city­press.co.za

At face value, Ng­wathe Sec­ondary School in Edenville, Free State, is a typ­i­cal town­ship school si­t­u­ated in an area that is suf­fo­cat­ing un­der a dev­as­tat­ing eco­nomic de­pres­sion. The school’s win­dows are bro­ken and the fur­ni­ture is fall­ing apart. stone’s throw away, un­em­ployed young­sters sit in front of a bot­tle store, down­ing quarts of beer and smok­ing dagga.

But in­side the class­rooms, it is a com­pletely dif­fer­ent story. The school has barely opened for this aca­demic year, but in ev­ery class, teach­ers and pupils are hard at work. In the school’s new sci­ence lab­o­ra­tory, pupils are recit­ing the pe­ri­odic ta­ble. Oth­ers are ex­per­i­ment­ing with chem­i­cals, dis­solv­ing me­tals and dis­till­ing wa­ter. Ev­ery­body is su­per­charged and bustling with en­ergy – they are on to some­thing.

Things are look­ing up­beat and, at this rate, says prin­ci­pal Mot­shi­disi Tu­misi, there is a strong like­li­hood that this year’s ma­tric class will outdo last year’s, which hauled in a 94.8% pass rate.

“I don’t see why we should not get 98% this year. Even a 100% pass rate is pos­si­ble. We mean busi­ness here. And I am very ex­cited to be part of this win­ning team,” she says.

But the sit­u­a­tion has not al­ways been this rosy. The school, lo­cated in a small neigh­bour­hood about 120km south­east of Vereeniging, stum­bled on to its road to Da­m­as­cus in 2013, thanks to the Whole School De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme run by the In­dus­trial De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (IDC). Through the pro­gramme, the IDC selects and in­jects re­sources and hu­man cap­i­tal into poor and un­der­per­form­ing ru­ral schools, with the aim of putting them on the straight and nar­row.

Ng­wathe Sec­ondary is one of 30 schools – lo­cated in ru­ral ar­eas across the coun­try from Lusik­isiki to Pampier­stad, and from Bush­buck­ridge to Vhu­fuli Vil­lage – the IDC has helped.

While Tu­misi is grate­ful to the IDC for the school’s new fully equipped lab­o­ra­tory, and for re­plac­ing the ceil­ings and lights, and paint­ing all the class­rooms, she says she is eter­nally in­debted to the or­gan­i­sa­tion for the “strate­gic plan­ning ses­sions” it con­ducted, dur­ing which it ap­plied busi­ness prin­ci­ples to the busi­ness of run­ning a school. It was dur­ing one of th­ese ses­sions that she had her “aha mo­ment”.

“They took us to Kroon­stad for a strate­gic plan­ning ses­sion, where we an­a­lysed our strengths, weak­nesses, threats and op­por­tu­ni­ties. Our ma­jor weak­nesses were that we had a school gov­ern­ing body that wasn’t sure about the dif­fer­ence be­tween gov­er­nance and man­age­ment. We also didn’t know how to man­age our re­sources, and we had no as­set reg­is­ter,” she says.

“Not hav­ing clear guide­lines as to who was re­spon­si­ble for what was the big­gest short­com­ing.” But af­ter the work­shops, things changed. “Both the school gov­ern­ing body and the school’s man­age­ment team have de­vel­oped their strate­gic plans, and we all know which de­ci­sions to im­ple­ment and when. Be­fore, teach­ers and pupils were al­ways late for school. They would take be­tween 15 and 20 min­utes to get back to class af­ter break. But it is all dif­fer­ent now. I don’t even have to go out of my of­fice to tell peo­ple to get back to class af­ter break. Within a few sec­onds, the school­yard is empty and lessons re­sume.”

Most im­por­tantly, the IDC has con­tracted a com­pany to help teach­ers im­prove their de­liv­ery of maths and sci­ence lessons. The re­sults, says Tu­misi, show that the course was long over­due. The ma­tric class of 2013 achieved a 55% pass rate in maths. In 2014, the pass rate climbed to 60%. It hit 89% last year.

A sim­i­lar trend was also ob­served in phys­i­cal sci­ence. In 2013, the pass rate was 77.8%. In 2014, it was 90%. But last year, it fell to 55%, Tu­misi says, af­ter the ma­tric sci­ence teacher suf­fered a stroke and was not re­placed.

“Had it not been for that, we would have achieved well above 90%,” she says.

The IDC, she says, “came to our school, sat in classes and ob­served how our teach­ers de­liv­ered the con­tent. They as­sessed their gaps and short­com­ings. This was fol­lowed by pri­vate ses­sions with the teacher. Af­ter school, they would also meet with the pupils and teach­ers for more classes be­tween 2.30pm and 5pm.”

The school’s bach­e­lor passes are also show­ing an up­ward trend. The pass rate has gone up from 29% in 2013 to 45.5% last year. This year, Tu­misi says, the IDC plans to build a com­puter and me­dia cen­tre, as well as a new kitchen for the school nutri­tion pro­gramme.

Re­port­ing by City Press and spon­sor­ship by the IDC

PHO­TOS: EL­IZ­A­BETH SE­JAKE

DOWN TO A SCI­ENCE

Pupils at Ng­wathe Sec­ondary School con­duct an ex­per­i­ment in their new sci­ence lab

ON THE STRAIGHT AND NAR­ROW the IDC has helped

Ng­wathe Sec­ondary School in Edenville, Free State, is one of 30 schools

WIN­NING WAYS Mot­shi­disi Tu­misi is the prin­ci­pal of Ng­wathe Sec­ondary School

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