Schools should take initiatives to deal with challenges, and not always rely on the government
Puseletso Tebogo Mashishi
I owe my current leadership skills to three men under whose stewardship I served. Each possessed different leadership styles and this helped lay a solid foundation for my management skills from a very tender age.
Teaching is the love of my life and I feel satisfied every day when I execute my duties. Seeing my learners succeed in the real world is extremely gratifying. I believe that all learners have potential and that they should not allow their backgrounds to define or dictate who or what they can be in life. Seeing them apply the knowledge I imparted to them and their ability to compete adequately in today’s world fulfils me.
Public and private schools
The vast difference between public or government schools and former model C schools is what inspired me to, one day, become a principal. The opportunity presented itself in 2012 when I took over Moitshoki Mofenyi Primary School in Koster, North West. I immediately decided to turn the impossible into possible.
When I became principal I was faced with a lot of challenges, none of which exist today. I overcame them through the co-operation and support of my staff, school governing body (SGB), parents and the community. The first thing I did was to help my teachers develop a positive attitude towards their work by inviting motivational speakers. I also made sure the school environment was conducive to teaching and learning, so that they could look forward to the next day without anxiety.
I have all the characteristics that a true leader requires, such as taking risks and doing what I believe is the right thing to do in the circumstances. I am proactive in nature; I always strive to foster change and make a difference in learners’ lives. I believe a manager should work tirelessly to improve results; I hold my staff accountable and closely monitor learner performance to assist where needed, and also give credit for a job well done. I have promoted most teachers, because I am a good motivator.
I dislike mediocrity and stagnation and I am a visionary leader. I believe in capacitating my staff and always search for the most innovative management and leadership skills. I also believe in delegating responsibilities to provide opportunities for development. In my four years as the principal here, I have been able to develop teamwork and ownership of the school by all stakeholders.
I handle the challenges we face each day because I believe the department of basic education cannot solve all the problems at all their schools. One of the things I did was to solicit sponsorships and donations to help many of our vulnerable learners. Every Friday these learners get fresh vegetables from the school garden to ensure they get healthy and balanced meals over the weekend, as we do not operate the feeding scheme outside school days.
The staff also contributes money to buy Christmas clothes, school bags and pencil cases. Donors have bought us equipment such as fax machines and microwaves, while others sponsored big projects such as helping with building, paving and constructing carports. We are currently looking for a sponsor to supply school uniforms.
We maintain high confidentiality about the learners who have disclosed their HIV status. We also offer them regular support to ensure they take their medication as prescribed. We have installed a remote controlled gate, CCTV cameras and signboards to ensure the safety of our learners and teachers. I achieved all this by engaging in vigorous fundraising initiatives and also due to my capable, dedicated, committed and highly motivated staff and SGB.
I run my school based on solid policies and ensure that they are implemented. My teachers know that I don’t compromise on this. Although I am firm, my teachers and learners are free to communicate with me as their mother, sister or colleague on any personal issues they may have.
I would like to share the following lessons with my counterparts out there:
• Be prepared to share good practices and be a good listener;
• Don’t surround yourself with “yes ma’am” individuals, but with people who will contribute towards your personal development;
• Always accept your weaknesses, but strive to correct them; and
• Do introspection, self-assessment and self-evaluation. If you do these, you will know whether you are on or off track, and then rectify accordingly.
Finally, a lifelong lesson I have learnt is that nothing is impossible in life — only your attitude and willingness will determine your destination.
Mashishi was the winner in ‘Excellence in Primary School Leadership’ category of the 2015 National Teaching Awards.