Dendron Secondary School
The Old Mutual Foundation has played a part in Dendron’s success story by investing R420 000 over three years since 2008. An additional R500 000 was committed in 2010, in partnership with the Limpopo Department of Education, to begin construction of their much-awaited science and computer laboratories. Every year the Old Mutual Foundation sponsors Dendron Grade 11 learners to attend the national ENKE ‘Make your Mark’ youth leadership forum, and since 2011 the top Dendron science learners and their educators have been sponsored to attend the National Science Festival in Grahamstown.
Since 2003 this modest rural school has consistently posted results that place it among the top ten schools in South Africa. This achievement is all the more remarkable given that Dendron is not a former model C school. It does not have facilities such as a swimming pool, gymnasium or sports fields. In fact, it does not even have a library or a science laboratory.
“The secret to our success is crystal clear,” explains Mr Matsapola in his office, surrounded by photos of past learners and a gleaming array of trophies and awards. “It’s hard work, discipline and commitment, from everyone,” he emphasises. “Teachers, learners and parents.”
Later as we walk around the school grounds, I see a sign taped on a classroom wall which reads, “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
Tsakane Ngoepe (17) is such a slip of a thing it’s easy to imagine she could be overlooked, that is until she smiles at you with a wide, megawatt grin. Tsakane, or TK as her friends call her, is one of those über-brainy students, graduating from Dendron Secondary School with seven A symbols and achieving the distinction of being top learner in Limpopo province for 2010.
We interview TK on the steps of Jameson Memorial Hall at the University of Cape Town, where’s she’s studying actuarial science on a full scholarship from Old Mutual. She has a lively intelligence about her, laughing often between thought-filled answers. She’s loving economics, a subject she didn’t do at school. “I read my textbooks before lectures started this year, I wanted to get ahead and have questions for my lecturers.”
Although TK wants to be the youngest-ever qualified actuary, she understands that life needs to be balanced. She’s a Chiefs fan and loves playing soccer. So what position does she play? Striker, she grins, just like in Bend It Like Beckham.