A small school with big hopes

2012-09-13 00:00

IT was a long and tiring journey to ­Inyonemhlophe Secondary School on a dusty gravel road with sharp curves.

The school is in a remote rural area marred by poverty at Umbumbulu in Mdumezulu, 40 km from Durban.

Friendly community members on the roadside waved a cheery greeting to Witness reporters. Some women stood outside their homesteads holding half-naked babies.

We arrived at the school to hear a teacher shouting with enthusiasm as she gave her lesson.

The pupils listened attentively.

There was no loitering.

“This is our small school,” the principal, Nkosinathi Zondi, said as he welcomed us.

He works in a small classroom that he uses as an office, against a backdrop of sporting trophies.

This school, which was established in 1976, was the first high school in the area. It has 200 pupils and 12 classrooms, including two mobile classrooms. Two of the classrooms are used for administration and as a staff room.

“Our toilets are in a bad condition, but we keep them clean,” said Zondi.

The toilets are used by teachers and pupils alike and have no doors.

Inyonemhlophe, which means white bird, has no library, laboratory, computer centre or sporting facilities.

There is a vegetable garden that supplements the school’s feeding scheme.

“The environment is not conducive for pupils to take education seriously, but we’re trying to effect change,” said Zondi.

There is also a shortage of furniture and the asbestos roofs over the classrooms have cracked and leak when it rains.

Zondi came to the school in April 2011 and is determined to make an impact.

“Teaching is not a profession, but a calling,” he said.

The unemployment rate in the area was between 80% and 90% and the community depended on the school for development, said Zondi.

The school has also applied to the Education Department for an upgrade programme.

There are 90 orphans at the school, but there is also a Good Samaritan.

The owner of Gininda Construction and a former teacher, Sipho Nsusha, has pledged R300 000 to renovate the school and build an administration block. It will include the principal’s office, staff room, office for an administration clerk and a strongroom.

This will free up space for more classrooms.

As a former teacher, Nsusha says he knows how demotivating it is to work under such conditions.

A lot needs to be done.

Nsusha will also help fix some of the problems with the roofing, plastering and gutters.

“When you enter through the gate you can smell there’s order and education going on.

“It’s not about the building, but the quality of education and this is what I found here.”

Construction will start at the end of this month.

Other wellwishers have donated calculators, photocopy machines and dictionaries.

The principal said he was determined to make sure that the school became a state-of-the-art centre in the rural area. He is also determined to improve the pass rate.

In 2010, the school achieved a 22% matric pass rate, and last year, after he had been at the school for eight months, the school achieved a 42% pass rate.

“We’re aiming for 100% this year,” he said with confidence.

Grade 12 pupils are busy with revision afternoons and Saturday classes.

One of the pupils, Bongani Msomi (23), who is repeating matric, said his marks had improved.

He has already applied to to study mechanical engineering at university.

Another pupil, Nkanyiso Dube (19), said the teachers were dedicated and wereconstantly motivating them.

“They are everything to us,” Dube said.

Although there is no playing field, pupils still play soccer and basketball. they practise basketball using poles, but without the shooting hoops.

A parent and member of the school’s governing body, Rejoice Gasa, said the school was thriving despite the difficult conditions.

Latecoming was almost non-existent and absenteeism had declined.

“There’s hope and we’re expecting great things from this school,” she said

KZN Education Department spokesperson Sihle Mlotshwa said infrastructure development was a priority and a lot of money had been invested in the department’s 2012/2013 budget.

• gabisile.ngcobo@witness.co.za

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