After the matriculants of Makupula Secondary School in Kayamandi achieved a pass rate of approximately 58% after their trial examinations in September 2019, everyone at the school was worried about how they were going to achieve their final pass rate target of 85%.
At the beginning of the year when the matriculants went to fetch their final results everyone got a lovely surprise when they learned the final pass rate was 94,4% - the highest pass rate the school has ever achieved.
However, this was not the first matric class to surpass expectations. After achieving 75,2% in 2015, the class of 2016 went on to achieve a pass rate of 87,9%.
“We usually start our extra after school classes for Grade 12’s in the first week of February. We also have classes on Saturdays,” explains Charles Ndlebe who has been the principal of Makupula since 2009.
Ndlebe had a meeting with all of this year’s Grade 12 learners during the last week of January to discuss what is expected from them throughout the year.
“I explained to them, for example, this first quarter is the longest. So they must not play hide and seek with this quarter. I expect them to always be present. I don’t allow them to be absent unless it is for a very serious reason.”
Last year there were also extra classes and educational camps during the Easter and winter holidays and some Sundays.
“Of course they attend the extra classes,” says Ndlebe.
He states further: “I explained to them so that they can understand the reason they must attend the extra classes. We are not doing it just for the sake of doing it. About 80% of the syllabus for the year must be finished by June. When we come back from the mid-year holiday, you have August to finish the syllabus, then we have more time for revision because revision is very important.”
The school also involves the parents. Ndlebe says they will organize a meeting with the parents during the second week in February so that they can be given the Grade 12 schedule and know what is expected from their children. Meetings with parents are held quarterly.
The school also has a mentorship programme where each learner is assigned a teacher. The number of Grade 12 learners are divided by the number of teachers at the school who sit down individually with them to follow their progress and help with difficulties they face academically and in their personal lives.
Ndlebe emphasises that Grade 12 learners are not the responsibility of the Grade 12 teachers only. “Their pass rate is not only enjoyed by the Grade 12 teachers. It is enjoyed and acknowledged among everyone as a team.”
When everyone was worried about how they were going to improve their September pass rate, Ndlebe held a meeting with his teachers.
“One of them suggested we approach the Department of Education to apply for money for a camp. We had to write a letter to motivate for that money and we also had to draw up a business plan. Fortunately the department gave us the money for the camp.”
The school then hired teachers from other schools who are experts in their respective subjects to do revision at the camp and then identify where the learners were weak.
During the afternoons former matriculants from Makupula who are now students at Stellenbosch University (SU) and other institutions, then continued with the learners into the evenings. The camp was held at a wine farm outside Stellenbosch for four days.
After the camp, matriculants were encouraged to study in groups at the school from 16:00. They were expected to come to the school for one week before being officially released to go study and prepare themselves for the final exams.
“We make it a point that they come to the school in the afternoons or evenings, during the week and weekends. Also during the exams. I always come to the school to make sure they are studying,” says Ndlebe who was born in and lives in Kayamandi.
Besides the classrooms which are at matriculants’ disposal in the afternoons and weekends some learners also make use of the halls of two local NGO’s in Kayamandi, Legacy and Kuyasa, because the school does not have a hall.
“They cannot study in their homes because some of them are living in informal houses which are congested and there is a lot of noise.”
Ndlebe encourages his learner’s to start working hard from day one.
During his meeting with the Grade 12’s everyone got a sheet with a list of their subjects so that they can write down their target for each subject for the end of the year. While enthusiastically holding the sheet, Ndlebe explains he did this so that the learner’s and teachers can analyse their targets when they meet each quarter.
“I said to them ‘I will not accept it if you say your target is 30%. You can write it, but we will have to talk about it because you must always aim high. You have to convince me why you wrote 30% on this sheet. It means you have already given up. I always tell them to aim for 50% or above.”
He always tells his learners they are only given one chance to do Grade 12. “Most learners who fail Grade 12 in Kayamandi lose hope. There are very few who say they will rewrite their matric subjects. That is why I tell them you only have one year to prove yourself.”
Besides the extra classes given by his own teachers, Ndlebe is grateful for the help given by SU, a teacher from Paul Roos Gymnasium and his former Grade 12 learners.
Teachers do not get paid extra for after school, weekend or holiday classes.
Ndlebe speaks highly of his dedicated teachers. “All my teachers are dedicated. That’s one thing I always boast about. Our agenda is to make it a point that these children get an education. Our motto is ‘education is our business’.”
“It’s tough!” admits Ndlebe.
He says further: “I don’t want to lie. It takes up all your energy. Teachers are doing it for the sake of love, because I can see they are exhausted. They love teaching and they want to see that these kids do well so they can go to all these higher learning institutions. When they mark I feel for them sometimes, because there is a lot of administration.”
Ndlebe says he always tries his best to motivate his teachers. “If a teacher sends me an SMS now and says ‘come to this class, these kids didn’t do their homework’, I jump and go to talk to them and encourage them not to lose hope. For instance, look at what these kids did last year, they got 94,4% even though they gave us a tough time.”
Some of the challenges the school face is a lack of space. There is no school hall with a very small playground. Some practicals for Life Orientation have to take place after school so as not to disturb the classes located right in front of the playground. Assembly takes place on the open playground, but there are no assemblies during winter. The school also does not have a field for sports.
“The kids don’t have enough space to release energy.”
All four schools in Kayamandi make use of the public sports field.
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