Principal of Thengwe Secondary School in Tshandama Village in Mutale district, Limpopo, Nkhangwe Nemudzivhadi started teaching 35 years ago and throughout the years has displayed selflessness and a passion to the teaching profession.
His reward was the Professor Kader Asmal Award, one of the latest additions to the National Teaching Awards (NTAs). “I am so excited. This came as a complete surprise to me. I really never thought I could be the winner.
But the people who are most excited about this are my colleagues, learners, parents and the entire community, as well as teachers from nearby schools,” says Nemudzivhadi.
He says the award is not only an acknowledgement of the good work he does, but also an indication of the positive impact he has on the learners and the community.
“I take pride in the fact that [the] majority of learners who were part of the school continue to do well at [the] various universities they enrol at and are also doing well in their lives,” Nemudzivhadi says.
He believes he won the award because of “the way I lead and manage the school, a culture of discipline I introduced at the school and, more importantly, the excellent matric results that we produced on consistent basis over the past years — we never achieved below 98%.”
Nemudzivhadi joined Thengwe in 1986 and has been there since. Before he joined the school, he was assigned the difficult task of establishing a school with no decent building or structure to talk about.
He said he chose teaching because he enjoys grooming young children and he gets excited to see them grow and leave the school more enlightened than when they started.
“It is such an achievement to get them to a stage where they can take care of themselves and their future,” he says.
Rapport with learners
These days he spends most of his time attending to administrative and management issues and hardly finds time to teach his favourite subject, life sciences.
His preferred teaching technique, which he still rates highly, is “to cultivate close rapport with learners, to create an environment where learners shed their inhibitions and feel free to interact with me and the lessons”.
“Life sciences is a fun subject to teach because learners get to know about their bodies — it is activity-driven,” says Nemudzivhadi.
His experience has put him in a good position to unravel some of the challenges that the school encounters. The school is based in a deep rural area, which is characterised by high levels of poverty, unemployment and illiteracy.
“Although we do provide meals as part of school feeding programme, most learners still go hungry after school.
This problem is exacerbated by the fact that most children live by themselves and those who have parents do not get the necessary support they need at home because their parents cannot read or write,” says Nemudzivhadi.
“Our interventions,” he says, “included adopting some of the learners and helping them with homework, buying groceries for those who are from needy families and augmenting this with left-overs from the nutrition programme.
“We also try, through a forum we call Visit to Villages or Communities, to interact with parents, local chiefs and civic organisations to highlight our success and challenges with them.
This way we are able to mobilise support from various stakeholders so that the school is not overwhelmed by these challenges,” says Nemudzivhadi.
His message to young teachers is that “teaching is a noble job that requires tremendous amount of commitment and drive.
Always put the interest of the children in front of you first. Don’t get overawed by the challenges you encounter; always strive to find innovative ways to resolve them”.