CLASS OF THEIR OWN
Poor schools produce a rich crop
● The principal’s office at Emhlwaneni High School in Driefontein, deep in the heart of rural KwaZulu-Natal, is adorned with framed pictures of past pupils.
An adjoining room is full of trophies the school — which has achieved a 100% matric pass rate for 16 consecutive years — has been awarded for its achievements, including in sports and music.
Much of the success can be attributed to the passion of former principal Bongani Khubeka, whose teaching philosophy is based on nurturing and empowering the African child.
Last year, the school continued its unbroken 100% matric pass rate, with 121 candidates securing bachelor passes and the remaining 13 achieving diplomas.
The school’s top performer, Luyanda Zakwe, bagged distinctions in English, Afrikaans, maths, life orientation, life sciences, physical sciences and geography. She was also among the top achievers in the Uthukela district and is now headed for the University of Cape Town to study medicine.
Overall, the school has produced nearly 20 medical doctors over the years. One of them is Dr Jabulani Nzimande, who graduated from the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Nelson Mandela School of Medicine in 2017 and is now an intern at the Ladysmith provincial hospital.
“I have no doubt I am what I am because of the school. The teachers did their best. They really pushed us. I didn’t really know how weekends looked like in town because we were at school from 7am until 4pm,” said Nzimande.
The school has also produced graduates from some of SA’s top universities — engineers, geologists, pharmacists and teachers. Such has been the consistent success of this rural school since 2002 that 27 out of its 36 teachers are former pupils who decided to return and plough their energy back into the community.
One of them is deputy principal Gcina Duma, who matriculated in 1989 and went on to study teaching at Ezakheni College of Education in Ladysmith, where he qualified as a teacher in 1996. He now teaches life sciences and 14 of his pupils produced distinctions last year.
Another former pupil, Lungisani Mazibuko, who holds a BEd from Wits University, is now the school’s head of department for maths and maths literacy and teaches maths in grades 11 and 12.
He produced the province’s top female achiever, Sinethemba Khoza, who not only bagged 100% in maths but was also the top pupil in the Uthukela district and top performer in maths and physical sciences in the province in 2013.
Acting principal Nondumiso Nxasane, who took over from Kubheka when he retired at the beginning of last year after being headmaster for 31 years, attributed the school’s success to the sacrifices made by teachers and a good relationship between the school and parents.
“I’m so excited, I’m out of words. Teachers worked extremely well, sacrificing their time. On weekends they were here. During the holidays they were here. They sacrificed their social life. They don’t have a social life, for the benefit of the black child,” she said.
The school’s secret, she said, was finishing the syllabus by July, which gave time for revision so pupils were prepared for the exams.
She is full of praise for her predecessor. “We did not deviate from the principles that Khathide [Kubheka’s clan name] believed in. We did not come up with our new things. Khathide used to say ‘teach an African child and you will never go wrong’. He motivates us even in retirement. We invite him to come and motivate our grade 12s and educators,” said Nxasane.
Acting principal Nondumiso Nxasane of Emhlwaneni High School in Driefontein in Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal, addresses pupils during assembly on the first day of the 2019 school year on Wednesday.
Sinethemba Khoza, KZN’s top girl in maths and physical sciences in 2013.
Former pupil Dr Jabulani Nzimande is now a doctor at Ladysmith’s provincial hospital.