Mafemani Nxumalo High School, Thulamahashe, Mpumalanga
Alinah Ngobeni’s school has learners who head families, and many whose parents work far from home, leaving them unattended and vulnerable. What is worse, her school is surrounded by four taverns, exposing them to drugs and alcohol abuse. Fortunately, the local youth organisations are active in the area, and through their various activities help to curb alcohol and substance abuse among the learners.
Ngobeni has introduced some innovations, such as rewarding learners who perform well, and providing financial assistance to those who do not live within the vicinity of the school. “I help them with transport fare, but only when it is available. So they come to school voluntarily, without demanding it. They also attend morning classes throughout the year without complaint,” says Ngobeni.
When she started her job as principal she faced some challenges, and hopes that winning an NTA award will boost her confidence. She is the only female principal in her circuit, and also the first woman to hold the position since the school was established in 1974.
“I feel great, because there is a perception that only male principals can make good leaders. I strongly feel this is something we need to address. I am happy, because as a female principal I have been recognised, and I hope this will go a long way towards motivating other women not to be afraid to apply for higher positions,” says Ngobeni.
She never thought she could ever become the head of a school, let alone realise her dream of becoming a teacher. She was expelled from her teachers’ college due to pregnancy, but she later managed to continue her studies through Vista University, and the rest is history, as the saying goes. She has been in the profession for 33 years, with 10 years of this as a principal.