Excellence in Primary School Leadership

Marcus Thobya Matsebane, Rapoho Primary School, Limpopo

Marcus Thobya Matsebane, Rapoho Primary School, Limpopo

Winner: Marcus Thobya Matsebane,
Rapoho Primary School, Limpopo

When Matsebane started to help his siblings with homework, he had no inkling he would end up becoming a teacher. But it seems his fate was sealed — after he passed his matric he “heeded the call to become a teacher”, says Matsebane, adding “my learners have hijacked my heart”.

Matsebane who joined Rapoho Primary School in 2010 says he draws inspiration from the late Martin Luther King’s words: “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”

Although he is office-bound as he is a principal, Matsebane creates time to interact with his learners. On Saturdays he teaches mathematics and uses workbooks to do practical lessons and guidance.

He considers his school to be among the blessed in the area as it has good infrastructure; it boasts, among others, an ICT Centre thanks to Cell C, an administration block, a grade R resource centre and a spacious and well-equipped kitchen to prepare and serve meals to learners as part of the National School Nutrition Programme.

Learner feeding programmes have substantially reduced high learner absenteeism across the country. “In general I am proud to say my school is vibrant and well-performing, with supportive parents,” says Matsebane. He always encourages his teachers to nurture and develop every individual learner’s skill and abilities to ensure they develop holistically and not just academically.

He believes NTAs are important in that they reward exceptional teachers, though not all of them are recognised for the amazing work they do in their “little corners”. Matsebane feels teachers should continue to inspire and encourage one another to ensure every teacher “leaves footprints in the hearts of their learners”.

1st Runner-up: Jonas Mojalefa Matsolo,
Hohle Primary School, Free State

Matsolo credits his past teachers for what he is today. He says the one abiding lesson he learned from them is that a teacher must have compassion, which must be applied in his or her teaching career. Matsolo says teaching is about impacting and adding value to learners’ lives. He believes that good teachers make excellent principals and that every learner wants to be heard and feel valued.

Matsebane regularly invites one or two learners to the assembly session to share inspirational words or experiences to help learners build their character and self-esteem. His personal motto is: “education has changed my life, it is now my responsibility to change the lives of others placed in my care”.

According to Matsolo the NTAs play a significant role in terms of rewarding and acknowledging the excellent work that teachers and principals do daily. He encourages the participants to share best practice from what they learned from the awards. He says his success lies in investing in every learner and teacher at his school, as he believes “the seed that you sow on a daily basis will bear fruit in the long run”.

Matsolo prides himself on the fact that some of his past learners have come back to teach at his school, quipping that he once taught them as his learners but today they return as his colleagues. “This is extremely rewarding.”

Matsolo says professional teacher development remains a key priority in his school. To this end, he regularly holds fundraising events to sponsor a variety of activities such as study tours, school leadership and professional teacher development programmes. Because of this he has been able to travel to other African countries for his personal development and to gather quality information on various education systems and best practice.

2nd Runner-up: Zibuyile Angelina Nzama,
Spearman Primary School, KwaZulu-Natal

Nzama is a veteran teacher and has been a principal since 2007. Before she joined Spearman Primary School in 2016 she used to teach at a school based in a deep rural community. This provided her with an invaluable lesson; it exposed her to different learning contexts and the trying circumstances from which most learners come.

Nzama says what drives her is the interaction, the alertness and the inquiring minds of her learners. She says she harnesses and capitalises on this enthusiasm to mould them into functional and responsible adults “ready to take on the world”.

She is a proponent of lifelong learning and she always encourages her teachers to attend development programmes so that they can keep up with new developments within the profession. “One should always go the extra mile in everything one does,” Nzama says. She formed various committees to ensure every member of her staff is involved in the daily running of the school.

She also makes sure that her school management systems function well so that they can successfully implement relevant education policies. When learners and teachers are motivated the school’s general performance improves, says Nzama. She also holds the view that closer working relations and partnerships with neighbouring schools can significantly improve learner performance and the overall academic results. With schools increasingly becoming sites of violence, Nzama has mobilised parents to become involved in the local Community Watch to improve the safety and security of the learners.

Spearman Primary School is a Quintile 5 school that serves disadvantaged communities from the adjacent informal settlements. This puts a strain on the school’s resources, particularly because it is not a recipient of a National School Nutrition Programme. Fortunately for the school, some local organisations such as the Al-Imdaad Foundation and Food for Life have partnered with the school to provide meals to the needy learners. Bata and the Sydenham Association also donate school shoes to more than 200 learners.

Thabo Mohlala

Thabo Mohlala

Thabo reports for the Teacher newspaper, a Mail & Guardian monthly publication. Apart from covering education stories, he also writes across other beats. He enjoys reading and is an avid soccer and athletics fanatic. Thabo harbours a dream of writing a book. Read more from Thabo Mohlala