Learners from schools serving impoverished communities shrugged off their challenging circumstances to attain outstanding matric results, thanks to the public and private partnership
the Teacher reporter
Kgomotso High School in Pampierstad, sandwiched between the Northern Cape and North West provinces, Modilati Secondary School in Stinkwater, Hammanskraal, north of Gauteng and Tau Rapulane High School in Bodibe, North West, are distance apart but have one thing in common. They are all beneficiaries of Adopt-a-School Foundation – an NGO that provides academic, infrastructural, social and security environment support to schools across the country, including Lesotho.
Water and sanitation
In the past, Kgomotso High School’s biggest challenge was not the standard of education, but the provision of water and sanitation. “On the days when we had no water, or when the toilets were blocked, we had to send learners home, often early in the day,” said Ernest Mothlaoleng, an educator at Kgomotso High School. “Not only did these issues impact a safe, conducive teaching environment but not having a full school day places huge pressure on both learners and teachers in an already difficult teaching environment,” he added. Since the Foundation adopted the school in 2013, the water and sanitation issues have since been resolved. “Now that we don’t have to worry about water and sanitation interrupting our schooling we can focus on effective teaching and improving performance in all areas,” said Mothlaoleng.
Improved matric pass rate
Other interventions included the introduction of early morning classes for matrics to focus on revision and extra lessons, learner supplementary programmes in mathematics and science over weekends and school holidays. The results of these interventions saw the school’s 2016 matric pass rate noticeably improving to 80.4% compared to 61% in 2015 – an improvement of 19.4 percentage points. The school also achieved its first ever distinctions in mathematics and science.
Quality of passes
Another example of a school that defied serious obstacles is Modilati Secondary School, which produced its first matric class in 2015. Since then the pass rate has increased from 65% to 75%. The school achieved 41 distinctions in 2016 – the second most of any school in the district. Modilati’s principal, Sonnyboy Mpofu, was pleased with the results but stresses the importance of the quality of the passes. “The pass rate alone is not an indicator of success. The only acceptable passes are level five, six or seven (i.e. aggregate marks of 60% and above),” he said. These results were not achieved without an enormous amount of hard work. Mpofu credits the improvements in pass rates to the grade 12 camp, a two-month intensive study programme held at the school in the run-up to the examinations.
He said learners slept at the school and woke up at 05:30 to prepare for the start of the normal school day at 07:00. After school they spent five hours in extra lessons, finishing at 22:00. The programme was made possible, in part, by the Foundation. One of the school’s exceptional achievers is Lebogang Phosa, who was awarded three distinctions, including physical science and mathematics. Phosa won a bursary and is preparing to study Civil Engineering at the University of Pretoria. Another high achiever is Maringa Mmathaphelo who was awarded five distinctions and will be studying accounting at Wits University on a partial bursary.
At Tau Rapulane High School the pass rate jumped from 67% in 2015 to 84% in 2016. The school’s principal, Ratlaleng George Themba, said the involvement of Adopt-a-School was “a turning point for the school.” “Thanks to the leadership and mentorship from Adopt-a-School, our educators were able to develop a strategy for improving results,” explained Themba. “We increased the number of extra classes offered and made ourselves available to learners in the mornings, in the evenings and on Saturdays. Educators also set personal targets for each learner and coached them when they were struggling to perform, going as far as supporting them with personal issues,” said Themba.
He said he is most proud of those learners who persisted in the face of serious doubts. For example progressed learner Edith Dingalo, who was moved into matric after failing grade 11 twice, managed to achieve a Bachelor’s pass and she qualifies to go to university.
“We are proud to be able to assist these schools in offering the kind of education that South Africa’s next generation both needs and deserves,” said, Steven Lebere, executive director of the Foundation. “We are proud of the achievements of these schools and their learners. We look forward to continuing to support and improve results in 2017 and beyond,” concluded Lebere.