Story of Klwana Combined School

2016-03-22 06:00

LATE last year, the management of Crawford College La Lucia received a plea from the principal of Klwana Combined Public school, Mr Thami Dludla, to pair up with his school.

From what I had heard from Mark McArthur, deputy principal at Crawford, this man was really determined to make the four-hour trip to La Lucia through the dirt roads and highways from his school located a few kilometres past Babanango.

He brought with him an entourage of dedicated teachers, who were equipped with notebooks and were ready to absorb as much as they could, and a few matric pupils.

They came, they saw, they learnt, and it was great. We genuinely felt good that we had reached out to this school and would be imparting to them how they can make a difference in their pupils’ lives.

As a school, Crawford then decided to also revert to Klwana and the management, with me acting as a plus-one observer, made our way up to the school.

Apart from being a few minutes late because our GPS failed us a couple of times (yep, I said it - the GPS sometimes got confused), we were astounded when we arrived as we were welcomed to this school that we would soon learn has produced an 80% pass rate.

I think for too long, especially among the cohort of private school attendees, we expect all schools to have a 100% pass rate.

But here we were, at a school where the children have to walk many kilometres every day, where goats roamed and felt free, and where the borehole was the most prized possession—this is the everyday reality here.

You see, Klwana has changed my perspective of success in education. For far too long I have thought that it is only the schools with the best resources that do succeed. What I witnessed at Klwana was that “it is not the [very] building that matters; it is the people inside it that matter,” as Mr Dludla uttered.

So what exactly is so different about this school, you ask? Well, firstly, Mr Dludla has managed to get the buy-in of the entire community into building his school. He has managed to get minimal­ local business support which has allowed him to build a very modest residence to house the girls inside the school property.

The boys still have to walk early in the mornings. This ultimately culminates in the school day that begins at 5.30am.

Classes are crowded to the max with some reaching about 90 pupils in them; they all sit and can independently self-study albeit with each pupil carrying different textbooks and some not having any at all.

The teachers care. The pupils sing. The principal utters, “It is not where you come from that matters. There is no excuse for mediocrity. I believe that each of you will be able to succeed.”

It may seem easy to say such words, but when you have a man who personally invests his own money in the school, it builds that infectious atmosphere of hope that surrounds the school. The teachers have it, and the village leaders as well.

Mr Dludla invited Crawford College not because he wanted an upgrade of his office. He called us because he wanted us to share in his dream for his school. He wanted us to really invest in change. He wanted desks for the children, and any spare textbooks we could spare. He wanted past papers and resources.

He wanted training for his teachers. He wanted the school to help him protect these young people from the outside world.

I sincerely hope we don’t fail him. I think it is all our responsibility to help when we witness such greatness. I really­ want us all to step up to this challenge. Near the end of our visit I turned to Facebook to “check-in” at this amazing school. Facebook told me I was a few kilometres away from Nkandla. Incredible how sometimes power and money is not afforded to the right hands …

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