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A school of distinction

Welabasha High School gets a high matric pass rate – quite a feat considering the many challenges it faces. But doing well is the order of business, and the KwaZulu-Natal school has no intention of sliding.

July 10, 2013

CSIwela insideJetros Muzomusha Mathaba, the principal of Welabasha High School

Situated in the hilly country of northern KwaZulu-Natal, overlooking a flat coastal plain and the major harbour town of Richards Bay only 15 kilometres away, lies the town of Empangeni, 160km north of Durban.

For the past three years, a school in the town has been achieving a 100% pass rate for its matric results – but to them that’s the norm. Jetros Muzomusha Mathaba, the principal of Welabasha High School, says: “The school was established in 1996 by the community and I was the first principal to be appointed. We were only six educators then and we only had grades 8 and 9, with 109 pupils.”

There was only one class in 1996, but parents chipped in to build another class for Grade 10, while Operation Jump Start provided four more classes. “In 1999, we presented our first matric pupils and the pass rate of the 33 pupils was 100%, with a couple of distinctions,” says Mathaba. “We achieved 100% from then until 2005. In 2006, we achieved 96% but with a pupil who got seven distinctions and was the top learner in the district.”

Then, in 2006, there was a dramatic fall in in the pass rate, with just 61% of matric pupils passing. “I can attribute this to the new curriculum [Outcomes Based Education] and many girl pupils being pregnant. In 2007, we gained momentum again and our pass mark grew to the 90s again.”

CSIwela insideWelabasha High School is one of the top performing schools in KwaZulu-Natal

The school had 245 matriculants in 2006; of these, 19 were pregnant. All of the pregnant girls failed. Enrolment now stands at 1 214 pupils to 38 teachers. In matric, there are 179 pupils, of whom 100 are doing maths.

The principal explains: “The school was visited by people from the Industrial Development Corporation because of our good results and [they] told us about [its] Adopt-A-School programme.”

Mbhekeni Mayisela, the deputy principal, adds: “We would like to have a well-equipped laboratory, media centre, administration block and new classes. This school can go far with the IDC’s backing because we have dedicated teachers and there’s healthy competition between us as educators, where we compete about how much our pupils achieved … Just like Redbull gives you wings, the IDC is going to give us wings to achieve more.”

From football to education

Mathaba started teaching in 1986 but was previously a soccer player who wanted to turn professional. “I seriously didn’t think I would become a teacher,” he says.

He matriculated in 1981 and in 1982 started shift work at a company in Richards Bay. “This made it hard for me to play games because at times I would work day shifts,” he explains.

“In 1983, I applied at Eshowe College of Education and finished my diploma there and started teaching in 1986. I furthered my studies while working and graduated with a degree from the University of Zululand, now known as University of KwaZulu-Natal, in 1991. I was the principal of a school in uMhlabuyalingana for four years before I came here.”

It has been a wonderful journey, he says. Looking back at all the pupils the school has produced, he would make the same choice again. “Teaching to me is like a contribution to the community in terms of moulding the future.”

CSIwela insideWelabasha High learners are working hard to get good marks

Loving science

Sebenzile Thandazile Dladla, the head of the science department, says the first term matric pass rate this year was 60% – and for them this was not good. “The lack of pupils doing maths and science can be attributed to educators not instilling a love for numbers in pupils from primary school.

“We need to make sure that educators network so that whoever is stronger in teaching life or physical sciences can be the one chosen to teach that part of the curriculum.”

She adds that she aims to get a 100% pass rate in science at the end of the year. “What we normally do is finish the curriculum before the third term so we can have enough time to do some revision.”

In the past three years, the pass marks in matric science in 2010, 2011 and 2012 were 65%, 69%, and 81%, respectively. “We always have a higher average than the national average,” Dladla says.

The school needs a laboratory, she adds, with equipment so that the pupils can experience the practical side of science.

CSIwela inside3Like most rural schools Welabasha High has needs for good infrastructure needs

Attitude to maths

Priscilla Zandile Mayisela, the head of the maths department, says: “We have 100 matric pupils doing maths.”

Pupils fail maths, she says, because they have an attitude towards the subject that could come from previous teachers, the home or the community. “Our past matric results for maths are: 69% in 2010; 78% in 2011; and 100% in 2012.”

Mathaba adds that the 2010 results were the outcome of a teacher exodus: a competent maths teacher who was doing well was given a post in an urban school and was replaced by a teacher new to the profession. “Our preparations for the final exams include having a winter school during the June school holidays where we invite experienced teachers to work with the pupils to get them to understand parts that are difficult for them in the curriculum,” the principal explains.

In love with numbers

Lethiwe Mncube, a 17-year-old matric, says: “I’m going to get five distinctions for the final exams … I chose maths and science because I love them. They teach you about everything in daily life; for example, you can see a car pass but there’s a story why that car can move, so I just love the phenomenon that is science.”

She thinks she will get a B or a C for science and definitely an A for maths. “I would like to become a gynaecologist after my studies.”

Andile Mfene, another matric, also wants to become a doctor. “I would like to become a neurologist.”

His average mark is 80% and he would like to keep them there so that he is able to get a bursary for tertiary education.

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