Achieving against all odds

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Lebogang Mnisi
Lebogang Mnisi

Despite being one of eight children surviving on his mother’s disability grant, Lebogang Mnisi’s Grade 12 results came back this week with five distinctions.

He was shy of two marks to get 100% in mathematics and Mnisi (18) honoured his teachers at Mjokwane Senior Secondary School in the rural KaMaqhekeza village near Komatipoort for his achievement.

“I wasn’t really good in mathematics and through their motivation, I started improving in Grade 11,” he said, adding that his mother and siblings also encouraged him to work hard.

Mnisi wants to study mechanical engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand. His school achieved an 88.1% pass. It is in a rural area in Nkomazi.

Mpumalanga’s overall top learner, Thalenta Ngobeni (16), also comes from the Bushbuckridge area.

Ngobeni did his Grade 12 at Corn Oaks High School in Acornhoek and achieved seven distinctions with a 100% pass in mathematics, physical science and accounting.

Schooling in Bushbuckridge was disrupted by service-delivery protests last year but pupils still produced outstanding marks.

Mpumalanga education MEC Reginah Mhaule said that service-delivery protests and labour unrest affected teaching and learning in certain Mpumalanga municipalities last year.

“A school calendar for each year provides only 200 school days and as such every second, minute, hour and day counts.

"A humble plea is made to all our communities to work with the government to create an enabling environment that will ensure that our pupils realise their full potential,” she said.

Mpumalanga’s pass rate was 74.8% — a 2.3% drop from 2016.

The province also awarded Dayimani High School near Bushbuckridge as the best no-fee school which got a 100% pass rate. All 74 pupils passed their matric.

When Ernest Hlathi (54) became the principal of this high school in 1999, its Grade 12 pass rate was just 20%.

Its pass rate started increasing steadily over the years and reached 70% in 2009. In 2012 it shot up to 96% and eventually achieved 100% in 2014.

Eighteen years later Dayimani is one of the top maths and science schools even though it does not have a laboratory and a library.

“We decided long ago that resources don’t teach and we focused on doing our job. When children have to do their science experiments, we ask other schools for assistance,” Hlathi said.

He attributes the school’s success to discipline and the active involvement of parents and the school governing body.

The syllabus, Hlathi said, is finished in June at his school. They do this by teaching from 6am to 5pm from January until June.

“We don’t close school during the March holidays. The school governing body ensures that teachers are compensated for transport and food when they teach during holidays,” he said.

“We don’t have factions, I share a table with my deputy and we all work well together … factions disturb schools,” he said, adding that the school wants to compete among the best schools nationally by 2020.

But he has one problem.

His teachers are poached. Last year he lost three teachers from his winning team forcing him to “train new persons to adapt” to their way of teaching.

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