No textbooks, no problem – principal

2012-07-28 16:33

Excuse-prone teachers need to take a leaf out of this headmaster’s book

Limpopo’s pupils may have been without textbooks for six months, but Grade 10 pupils at Mbilwi Secondary School insist they will pass the year with flying colours.

As civil society groups and politicians grill the national and provincial departments of basic eduction over the scandal, Mbilwi’s principal, Cedric Lidzhade, won’t tolerate excuses from teachers and fellow principals.

Lidzhade, whose school in Thohoyandou has won more than 120 trophies and numerous certificates for consistently producing top results, and for being Limpopo’s top school, said an absence of books should not mean the absence of teaching.

“We can’t make excuses about this and that. We can’t say we don’t have libraries, labs and books. Facilities don’t teach kids. If educators are not committed, labs, libraries and books will remain white elephants, and the kids will still fail,” he said.

The main reason for poor results, he said, was the lack of commitment from principals and teachers.

“There is a Chinese proverb that says ‘a fish rots from the head down’, meaning if an institution, company or country fails, it is the leadership that is the cause. We can’t make excuses. Books are important, but to say everything will collapse without books is a lie.”

Lidzhade said that when he realised that textbooks for the new curriculum were not going to be delivered for his Grade 10 pupils, he asked teachers to make copies of chapters and distribute old textbooks used before the Outcome-Based Education (OBE) curriculum was phased in during 1997.

“In maths, factorising is factoring, whether you use the old curriculum, OBE, or the new Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement,” he said.

As early as January, the school started Saturday maths and science classes for all grades.

“They spend about three hours every Saturday morning learning formulas, chemistry and conducting experiments. We don’t waste our Saturdays telling kids about the food chain, that is a simple thing. I never hear my teachers complaining about the lack of books, not once,” he said.

However, the school, which was built in 1979 and focuses extensively on maths and science, has now become a victim of its own success. All the parents in Thohoyandou want their children enrolled at Mbilwi, which has led to significant overcrowding.

“We even have foreign students here. I have about 602 Grade 10s and the average matric class has about 70 learners. We have more than 2 300 learners, which is about a thousand more than we should admit,” he said.

On Wednesday afternoon, after 5pm, some Mbilwi pupils were still in school, studying in groups.

Grade 10 pupil Rudrani Netshidoni said he had not been affected by the fact that his textbooks arrived half way through the academic year.

“One thing I’m sure of is that I will pass, with or without books,” he says.

“People should just take responsibility for their work instead of spending months complaining about books. Angie Motshekga and her management should come here and our principal will teach her a thing or two about running an institution”.

It is clear that Lidzhade leads from the front.

“I enjoy teaching, I will not hesitate to step into the class if a teacher is absent.

“Last week they asked me to teach genetics, I did on a Friday and I gave the matrics a test and by Monday I was giving them their scripts back and everyone was surprised. If I do that, I inspire my educators to do the same”.

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