'Our cries have fallen on deaf ears' - Dedicated teachers help NW school without library or lab get 100% pass
Pupils and teachers at Ntolo Secondary School in Madidi village, in the North West, were on Wednesday celebrating a 100% matric pass rate for the first time in 27 years.
“It's really unbelievable, considering the dire situation of the lack of resources we find ourselves in … but we are happy for the community,” said principal Samuel Jeremiah Phillips.
Some of the daily challenges faced by teachers include a lack of study materials, no library and no laboratory.
Pupils also faced the burden of having to walk long distances to school. Some were from child-headed families.
“The situation was really dire. We had children who wanted to attend school even during holidays because they needed the meals provided by the department, because at home there is nothing," said Phillips.
The school is in the Bojanala Platinum district, which achieved an 89.6% pass rate, making it the best-performing district in the North West and joint sixth nationally, tying with Sedibeng East in Gauteng.
The North West recorded an 86.8% pass rate as a province - an improvement of 5.6 percentage points from 2018.
A pupil at Ntolo Secondary, Kabelo Poo, was among those who performed well. He obtained a bachelor degree pass and two distinctions. “I am so proud - not just for myself and classmates but for our teachers, who did their best to see us become number one,” he said.
He recalled how he had to ditch soccer, his social life and family responsibilities - sometimes sleeping at school to save time and avoid walking nearly 10km to class.
“If I left my home at 5.30am I would get to school at 7.35am. That's why we sometimes decided to sleep at school, so we could study more,” he said.
Poo is now hoping to study at the University of Cape Town (UCT) or at Wits in Johannesburg.
Phillips said the school had over the years maintained a pass rate of between 83% and 89%. He described the 100% pass rate as "historical".
“Our teachers worked extremely hard. They went the extra mile and in some cases used their personal resources to ensure these pupils passed," he said.
He said while the achievement was unexpected, it was well deserved for staff, who started teaching as early as 6am and left late, often providing their own data so that pupils could use tablets.
He hailed the teachers' commitment, for example by having extra lessons before pupils sat for the exams. Some teachers even helped to pay for pupils to conduct research, buy study guides and make photocopies. They would sometimes not get reimbursed because of the lack of finances at the school.
Teacher Rabelani Ndou said the achievement was bittersweet. “It is exciting and fulfilling that the pupils have all passed, but the conditions we work under are quite hectic. It is painful to get recognition only now, when our cries to get better services have fallen on deaf ears," he told TimesLIVE.
Ndou said he hoped the 100% pass rate would prompt the department to provide additional resources.