Poor schools pro­duce a rich crop

Sunday Times - - Front Page - By BON­GANI MTHETHWA

● 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.

Pic­tures: Thuli Dlamini

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.

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