Tragic loss for education

Obituary: Head of the Northern Cape Department of Education, Kevin Nkoane, was killed in a car crash last month

TEACHERS, education officials, politicians and civil servants in the Northern Cape were shocked last month by the untimely death of the head of the provincial Department of Education, Kevin Nkoane, in a car crash.

More than 500 people attended a memorial service for Nkoane in Kimberley—clear testimony to his popularity and the respect he commanded. The Northern Cape Premier, Manne Dipico, who Nkoane at one time served as an adviser, released a statement saying: “The provincial government and indeed the entire community of Kimberley and the province has lost a son who was destined to make a significant difference in the education of our population in the province and nationally.
His passion to work and commitment to the cause placed him at the head of this process, which he so unselfishly and ably took up.”

Nkoane was widely recognised to have been doing an excellent job in righting the inequalities in the province’s education system. Under his authority, matric pass rates were consistently high, compared to other provinces.

Nkoane had just embarked on a programme to improve the performances of schools in the province with the poorest results. The initiative was to have run on weekends throughout the year. He identified the schools and attended the first in early February himself. “He was there, talking to teachers and principals, showing them how to draw up work schedules and encouraging them,” says department representative Annelie Potgieter. “He really took an interest in the disadvantaged schools. He recognised that 90% of the problems are in these schools and he wanted to make things better there.”

Potgieter said that he had worked hard last year to release an index listing the province’s schools from poorest to richest before most other provinces had done so. This allowed the department to decide more fairly how to allocate its budget this year.

Nkoane was a stickler for spending money wisely. “He insisted on knowing exactly what we were spending money on—he wasn’t interested in thumb-sucking and estimates,” added Potgieter. “As a manager he kept tight control while allowing people to use their initiative, which is quite a balancing act.”

Nkoane had worked for the African National Congress education department and the Centre for Education Policy and Development, and was a founder member of the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union.

Nkoane knew the difficulties facing teachers first-hand, having taught for three years in Kimberley, in both a poor township school and a private school. Nkoane was appointed as a chief director in the provincial Department of Education in October 1997, and had been head of the provincial Department of Education since February 1998.

He leaves behind a 13-year-old daughter, Nomazwi, an 18-month-old daughter, Keitsing, and his wife, Cindy.

—The Teacher/Mail & Guardian, March 1, 2000.

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