Investing in the Future
Today we’re visiting Richard Varha Secondary School, one of the top performing schools of 104 schools in King Williams Town, Eastern Cape.
Before I even speak of our school visit, it’s important to know that in 2013 Old Mutual spearheaded a multi-partner, national education initiative to invest R350 million over seven years, into under-resourced schools in key provinces. The overarching goal of the Old Mutual Education Flagship Project (OMEFP) is to increase the number of bachelor passes (university entrance) of Grade 12 learners who have maths and science in their subject choice. By doing so, the number of students who access university education increases, with the end result of more professional skills in the economy.
Richard Varha SS is one of the schools participating in the OMEFP project and I’m interested to see for myself what’s happening on the ground. Although we’d planned to be there at 7h45 in time for school assembly, it seems that the Department of Transport had other plans because we are held up for 30mins in stop/ry/go roadworks. We finally turn into the school grounds and our road trip team is warmly greeted by acting school principal Mr Adonis, and deputy principal Mrs Mgijima.
Richard Varha SS school principal, Mr Adonis engaging with his science learners.
During the course of the morning’s visit with Mr Adonis (whose passion for teaching reminds me a little of Sidney Poitier in the movie To Sir With Love), I’m impressed with the multiple OMEFP initiatives happening at the school:
- Strengthening the school’s senior management team (SMT) and school governing body (SGB) through a year-long intervention run by SEED Education Trust in leadership, management and school governance, together with ongoing mentoring and coaching, and the development of communities of practice to share learnings and experiences.
- Developing maths and science teachers’ knowledge and confidence in their curriculum content, with workshops held by Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU)
- Provision of laptops to maths and science teachers with curriculum content uploaded in visually engaging material for improved teaching.
- Provision of tablets to senior maths and science learners for afterschool exercises and support. NMMU track exercise results online to monitor study progress.
- And most recently, a values-based youth leadership initiative by Columba Leadership with the Grade 9’s, encouraging positive youth activism and embedding values of personal leadership such as awareness, focus, creativity, integrity, perseverance and service in young leaders.
Deputy principal, Mrs Mgijima teaches commerce to her Grade 12 class.
We take some time out to talk with two Grade 11 students, Solomzi Gladile (18) and Mihlali Blekiwe (18), who love their tablets, saying how useful they are for extra exercises, homework and support. Both students are getting in the top 90s for their maths and science and after we finish chatting, I can’t help thinking these two learners are top-notch bursary material, they’re bright, articulate, engaging young men.
OMEFP representative for Eastern Cape, Dali Matta says the project aims to bring stability and functionality to each school’s management structure and operations. “We want to make leaders lead, enable teachers to teach and learners to learn.”
Perhaps for me the strongest evidence comes, not in the upward trend of the school’s statistics and results, but in a comment Mr Adonis makes as we’re ending off our visit to the school. “In 2013 there were only 787 pupils, now there are 1161 pupils at this school. This shows the impact the school is having and the community is noticing what’s happening. They’re saying to us, we want our children at your school!”
And we’re off!
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