Teachers honoured for their sterling work

Sinethemba High school principal Mathipa Nelson Poopedi showing his accolades.

The increase in crimes such as rape and murder in the townships have forced teachers to be more hands-on when dealing with pupils. This is according to the winners of the After School Leadership Excellence Award, Mathipa Poopedi and Zola Phahlana.

The two principals-from Sinethemba High School, in Philippi and ID Mkize High School, in Gugulethu, respectively-were recognised by Premier Helen Zille for their dedication and hard work on Friday November 3.

The two were acknowledged for leading the way in providing creative and dynamic after-school programmes at their schools.

This is the second year this award has been presented at the Western Cape Education Department’s provincial teaching awards ceremony and forms part of the After School Game Changer initiative, which is focused on pupils having regular and sustained participation in quality after-school programmes. The game changer target is at least 20% (or 112 000) of no-fee and low-fee pupils attending after-school activities regularly and consistently by 2019.

School principals were commended and awarded for their dedication to ensuring that their pupils work hard to achieve better results. Mr Poopedi was awarded with a commendation award while Mr Phahlana was recognised for his commitment to providing quality after-school programmes at his school.

Mr Poopedi told Vukani he was grateful to the WCED and the premier’s office and that it was inspiring when people recognised teachers for their hard work.

He is involved in the Kutlwanong Centre for Maths, Science and Technology, a non-profit organisation that provides maths and science after-school tuition to township pupils in grades 10 to 12.

The programme aims to assist all its pupils to achieve a minimum of 75 percent in these subjects, and is designed to bridge the gap between disadvantaged pupils and those from high-income families through the provision of free textbooks, stationery, meals and high quality tutors.

“We do not only have after-school programmes, but we continue on public and school holidays too. What it means is that I am at the school for seven days a week almost every month.

“We have 450 pupils that we teach from Grade 10 to 12. All we want is a child to be taught. Take them out of crime and redirect them to their careers. We give them an opportunity to better their careers,” he said. Mr Poopedi has served as the Kutlwanong centre manager from its inception and currently manages 24 teachers and oversees the 450 pupils from schools in Khayelitsha, Mitchell’s Plain, Athlone, and Lansdowne. “It is not an easy job, but we want to break the cycle of poverty. We want to see negative perceptions about the township gone. But the most important thing is that these children want it more. They keep us going. I might sound like I’m bragging but another advantage I have is that I do not talk but do,” he said.But, he said, it would not have been possible had it not been for Kutlwanong and its sponsor, Investec. Mr Phahlana, who has been at the helm of ID Mkize for many years, was modest. He said he drew inspiration from the pupils, the tutors and the community who make things happen under difficult conditions. He said he would like more extramural activities, not only for the school, but for the community as well.

Mr Phahlane blamed crime for some of the problems in the townships, and said it had not been easy to have after-school programmes as parents and the school had safety concerns. “I prefer to do things out of the limelight. But I must say I say that I am happy to be recognised although we started the programmes by default,” he said.

“When a group of conveners approached us we had concerns of safety and crime, parents too have their concerns. Remember we are dealing with teenagers and they might say this while doing the exact opposite. Children too felt vulnerable to walk home late. But sanity prevailed. We agreed on a couple of programmes. Neighbourhood watch came in, parents and the WCED. I must commend all of those,”he said. Mr Phahlane praised the pupils, teachers to community members played an important role in the nurturing and building of the children. Among the initiatives run at the school, he said, were the Year Beyond Programme, the debating society, the Doing it for Her mentoring programme, choir, sport and the Mankunku Foundation programme. “My vision is to see more and more pupils be involved in a minimum of two extramural activities, teachers involved in two extramural activities and the community involved hands-on in the development of itself,” he said.