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Boithaopo gets the right help

A school in Kraaipan, built by the community, is getting results – which led to it getting noticed by the Industrial Development Corporation. Boithaopo High School has joined the corporation’s Whole School Development Programme.

April 23, 2013

CSIboithaopo insideBoithaopo High School principal Norman Phiri

For a school in the former homeland of Bophuthatswana that hasn’t had adequate facilities for a number of years, Boithaopo High School is doing great against the odds.

Nestled between Mahikeng and Vryberg in North West Province, lies the small mining town of Kraaipan. It has only one high school; Boithaopo also caters for the surrounding areas of Setlagole and Khunana.

Norman Phiri, the principal, explains the school’s origins: “Boithaopo means to volunteer in English. This stems from the community volunteering to build themselves a high school because there were no high schools in the area and surrounding villages.”

It was built in 1986. Before then, pupils usually went to Madibogo High or Phatsima High, which are 40 and 45 kilometres away from Kraaipan, respectively. A lack of transport options meant most of the pupils had to live with other family members away from their parents. This put a lot of financial strain on the parents and they decided to do something about it.

They all contributed money for materials and built the school themselves. “At first, the paramount chief was against the building of the school as he lived in Madibogo and didn’t feel the pain of pupils having to travel to get to school,” says Phiri. But Boithaopo was registered at the department of education in 1987 as part of the then Bophuthatswana homeland.

There are hardly people in the streets during schooling hours and goats, sheep and cattle roam around freely. The occasional car passes raising some dust in its wake. This is a village were the community still believes that “it takes a village to raise a child”, Phiri says. “This makes it easy for a child to be disciplined because of respect for elders and not just their parents, is entrenched in the community.”

Boithaopo, a no-fee school, is one of 20 schools across South Africa adopted by the Industrial Development Corporation through its Whole School Development Programme. The IDC is working in partnership with Adopt-a-School Foundation, an NGO, on the venture. The adopted schools will be under the wing of the two organisations for five years.

Dedication makes things work

CSIboithaopo insideJeremiah Moreo in the school’s library

At Boithaopo, 90 percent of the teaching staff lives in Mahikeng, about 70 kilometres away from Kraaipan – this translates into a 140km roundtrip each day to do their duties. “Our teachers are so committed to doing the best and go the extra mile by even working [on] weekends,” Phiri says.

He has been the principal for the past 22 years, and points out that there have been only three years in which the school performed badly. This was because of the exodus of good teachers. “We had novices coming in with no experience and that is why we had a slump in performance.”

There are 537 pupils enrolled this year at Boithaopo; with 222 Grade 10s, 215 Grade 11s and 100 Grade 12s. Most of the pupils are from the area. Phiri says: “In terms of the matric pass rate we are doing well because we are always above the national matric pass rate and in 2012 we achieved 79.6 percent pass rate.”

Boithaopo offers all subjects except for computer studies, which is hindered by problems with the computer centre. “We would like to see this school being a full Dinaledi school with 60 percent of pupils doing maths and science in the future.”

Maths and science were made priority subjects over a decade ago by the national Education Department. The Dinaledi Schools Project was started in 2001 by the department to increase the number of matriculants with university-entrance passes in mathematics and science. The strategy involves selecting high schools for Dinaledi status to increase learner participation and performance in mathematics and science, and provide them with the needed resources and support.

Dinaledi means “stars” in Setswana.

CSIboithaopo insideThe computer centre is lying idle

Under Phiri’s stewardship

Phiri started teaching in 1980 at Barolong High School in Mahikeng, where he spent a year before leaving for Lapologang High also in Mahikeng, where he taught for seven years. “I was at Lapologang when the Boithaopo post was advertised, so I applied for it, got interviewed and won it.

“I began working here on 14 January 1991.The one thing that made me want to succeed at this post was the community asking me not to let them down.”

At the end of the academic year in 1990 there were 147 high schools in the former homeland of Bophuthatswana and the least performing was Boithaopo. Phiri recalls: “At the end of 1991, under my leadership, we had a 72 percent pass rate for matric and I was congratulated by the then minister of education and the former president of Bophuthatswana homeland, Lucas Mangope, at the civic centre in Mahikeng.”

In Greater Delareyville, the municipality under which Boithaopo falls, it is the only high school that has kept consistent matric results. In the past five years, the school has not dropped below a 70 peercent matric pass rate. “We do this by maintaining good human relations with all our stakeholders – the parents, school governing body, and the community,” explains Phiri.

IDC and Boithaopo

The school needs to be renovated as it consists of 10 building blocks of which there are two classes in each block but only four are conducive for learning. Approaching what should be the ablution facilities for learners, a stench assails the nostrils. This is one of the priority areas the school feels should be tackled.

“A school bus for the learners would also do the school good as some pupils also travel long distances to get here and public transport is scarce in this part of the country,” says Phiri.

Jeremiah Moreo, the head of department of maths and science, adds: “We are happy that the IDC has already started renovating our laboratory and we will make sure it is put to good use.”

Moreo says the computer centre, which has 15 computers, is not usable because of the power supply. “If these computers worked it would be easier to show chemistry and physics simulations to the learners for better understanding.”

Learners speak

Despite their difficult circumstances, the pupils at Boithaopo are eager to learn and so better their lives. Thapelo Motshwarateu, a Grade 12 pupil from Hlokae Section in Kraaipan, about four kilometres from the school, achieved 74 percent for maths in the first term.

He says: “If the computer centre was working I would be able to access past matric papers so I could start planning for the final exams. I’m aiming to get 100 percent for maths at the end of the year through sheer hard work.”

Jane Bokgwatile, also in Grade 12 and from Letsapa section in Kraaipan, which is five kilometres from the school, achieved 62 percent for maths in the first term. “I attribute this mark to my very involved teacher who makes us attend extra classes on Saturdays, and my commitment to studying.”

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