Excellence in Secondary School Leadership

“Change happens when everyone pulls together in the same direction to realise a shared vision”. This is one of the fundamental principles that underpins Motshwanedi-Marimo’s leadership style at her school. It is this collective teamwork that saw her turn her school into one of the best-performing schools that went on to attain a “Middle School” status.

Motshwanedi-Marimo says she chose teaching because it is a profession through which she can impart knowledge and transfer skills, and thus change the lives of her learners. She finds the teaching profession extremely stimulating and emotionally gratifying.

She is a driven and committed person who believes that change can only be effected and achieved through hard work. She reckons that as principal she is best qualified to drive, manage and implement the necessary changes for the school to function optimally. “One has to be committed and determined to effectively and efficiently achieve one’s life goals. You cannot wait for change to happen, but must be the change that you want to see in your school and in your community,” says Motshwanedi-Marimo.

She believes teachers should also play their part in managing change by adopting the latest teaching approaches that prepare and empower learners for both the 21st Century and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

Motshwanedi-Marimo says what keeps her going and grounded is the determination to overcome the challenges she faces in her career on a daily basis. “Perseverance is a trait that all principals should foster in their learners and teachers. It is important to work smarter, not harder, and to never give up on your dream to touch the lives of learners, parents and colleagues.”


She believes curriculum delivery should be preceded and accompanied by a set of values that will serve as a personal compass to guide both learners and teachers. To achieve this, Motshwanedi-Marimo has developed “PRIDECHAP” principles which include: punctuality, respect, integrity, determination, empathy, co-operation, cleanliness, honesty, appreciation and pride.

She also believes that learners should receive healthy and nutritious meals to improve their concentration and participation in the class. Although her school serves meals to learners as part of the National School Nutrition Programme, she has formed a school-based vegetable garden project to augment the feeding scheme. The surplus is sold to the nearby community to generate cash for the school.

1st runner-up: Martin Victor Nkuna,
Makhosana Manzini High School in Hazyview, Mpumalanga

Nkuna chose teaching because he felt it was the only profession that would enable him to plough back the knowledge and skills into the very community that played a role in his own personal growth and development.

He enjoys interacting with learners because of they are always eager to learn and also bring fresh energy into the classroom. Although the school experiences challenges such as poor learner discipline and lack of parental involvement in their children’s academic work, Nkuna is always positive about finding solution to the problems.

“It is important to remain positive at all times when you deal with the challenges you encounter in your daily interactions at your school. With patience and determination, it is possible to see change happening, even if it is happening slowly but surely,” he says.

Nkuna is a firm believer in teamwork — he believes it is an important element for a fully functioning school. He attributes his nomination to the NTAs to the teamwork and the support he received from his colleagues.

“I therefore urge my colleagues not to lose hope but persevere despite all the challenges facing the profession on a daily basis,” says Nkuna. He is also a visionary and a hard worker who has managed to transform his school into a Mathematics and Science Focus School. He strongly believes in building the capacity of his colleagues and has initiated a number of partnerships aimed at promoting teacher development as well as ensuring Learner Representative Council members attend induction courses to provide exemplary leadership for their peers.

Nkuna has also forged vital links and networks with various external stakeholders, and thanks to this initiative the school has been able to secure an ICT sponsorship. The school boasts a sophisticated ICT infrastructure with hi-tech equipment such as laptops, desktops, overhead projectors and tablets, all with internet connectivity. The school is also counted among those whose learners are learning the latest technologies in preparation for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

2nd Runner-up: Thumelo Jonas Mahlaba,
Makabelane Technical High School, Free State

This year Mahlaba’s school was converted into a fully-fledged technical high school. He says this is a great achievement, as it is in line with “the National Development Plan (NDP) strategic objectives to train more artisans by 2030”.

Mahlaba holds the view that all learners should study mathematics and physical science so that the country can produce enough highly competent engineers and artisans with technical skills to meet its developmental challenges. To help achieve this ideal he has forged links with different community-based artisans.

“I use artisans within the community to transfer their professional skills to my learners. The skills include welding, plumbing, carpentry, bricklaying, woodwork and motor mechanics. The idea is to equip learners with these skills so that they can assist the community in a ‘cycle of mutual symbiosis and sustainability’, says Mahlaba. Not only does this promote partnerships with the communities, he adds, but it also helps curb the increasing levels of crime and vandalism in the community.

Mahlaba always encourages his learners and teachers to attend capacity building workshops and development programmes so that they can unlock their potential. “It is also part of lifelong learning. Teachers are the role models of academic success: excellent teachers will cultivate competent learners. It is easy to lead committed individuals who lead themselves,” says Mahlaba.

He advises his teachers and learners to not only focus on challenges but also go a step further and think outside the box to overcome them. Mahlaba also believes that schools should network and share best practices with one another. As part of this, he regularly invites teachers from nearby schools to developmental workshops and motivational sessions. He has established a Book Reading Club at his school to promote and encourage reading among the learners.

He says his source of motivation is from Robin Sharma’s book The leader who had no title. The author, explains Mahlaba, highlights the point that regardless of one’s title, individuals have the power to demonstrate leadership in their immediate environment, and to rise to a new level of innovation and performance to lead the process of change management.

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Thabo Mohlala
Guest Author

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