It was back in 2011, when learners at PP Hlungwani Secondary School in Malamulele, Limpopo together with their parents, boycotted classes demanding the return of their school principal, Richard Khosa.
That year, the rural school matric results had plummeted to 57, 3% from previous years highs of over a 90% matric pass rate.
Learners and parents at the school said Khosa had the winning formulae to return the school’s pass rate to its former glory.
They were right.
Upon Khosa’s return, PP Hlungwani Secondary School has returned to producing one of the best matric results in the province.
In the 2020 Matric exams, the quintile 1 school, which caters for the poorest 20% of learners, achieved a matric pass rate of 92,7%.
This happened despite the lack of resources available at the school, and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic that placed even more pressure on learning and education. The school – situated in Green Farm village about 15km outside Malamulele – still managed to produce one of the country’s best learners, 18-year-old Pearl Khosa (no relation) who represented the school at the Top Matric Achievers National Awards.
Pearl achieved six distinctions for the 2020 Matric year. It was reported that she also attained 300 out of 300 marks in Physical Science, a subject that Khosa himself teaches.
In 2018, the school produced a top learner, Nwayitelo Masia, also attained full marks for Physical Science as well as 7 distinctions. Nwayitelo represented the school at the provincial awards ceremony.
The school, being a government quintile 1 school lacks basic necessities. The school does not have an adequate number of classrooms, a science laboratory, a school hall, an admin block and decent ablution facilities.
When asked about the secret of the success of the school that he leads, Khosa said: “It is the commitment of the school management team lead by the school principal. This trickles down to other educators.
“School management must be exemplary. At my school, the SMT [science, mathematics and technology education] is supported by other stakeholders such as the school management body, parental involvement and traditional leadership,” said the principal.
Adding that one must not expect the support from other stakeholders for nothing, “you must show commitment and their support will follow”.
Khosa joined PP Hlungwani Secondary School in 2003 after then school principal, Mackson Masangu, resigned to join the Thulamela Local Municipality as a senior manager.
Although his position was as a deputy principal, he was soon promoted to acting principal.
However, in 2006, the Department of Basic Education seconded him to be the acting principal of a new school, Jilongo Secondary School in Jilongo Village also under the Madonsi Traditional Council.
It was during this time that matric results at PP Hlungwani Secondary School saw a sharp decline, which led parents and pupils to go on massive protest demanding the return of their principal.
Jilongo Secondary School pupils and their parents also boycotted classes demanding that Khosa continue as principal. The tug of war would see Khosa sent back to PP Hlungwani where, many said he was never meant to leave. Khosa was replaced by Dan Khanyi who later left Jilongo to join the Collins Chabane Local Municipality as the manager in the mayor’s office.
But Khosa was almost lost to teaching.
As a young man who had just completed his then Form Five examinations at Mtititi Secondary School, Khosa was trained by Telkom for three years. He later became a qualified technician with a diploma in telecommunications.
But after working for three years, he saved enough money to finance his passion to be a teacher.
Khosa attended Tivumbeni College of Education where after three years, he acquired a teacher’s diploma and came back to teach at his alma mater, Mtititi Secondary School.
From there he was promoted to deputy principal at Shitlhangoma Secondary School before his transfer to PP Hlungwani.
PP Hlungwani presently has 1 446 leaners and 43 educators.
The principal’s small office has been converted into a classroom. On the classroom walls, there are many accolades including certificates and trophies.
“We receive them all the time,” said Khosa. “They are from the district, region and province. Some are from the [teachers’ union] Sadtu. They show that the different stakeholders appreciate what we are doing,” he said.
In Khosa’s first year back at PP Hlungwani in 2012, the matric pass rate returned to over 90%.
Because of his track record, many schools are utilising his services.
He recently addressed a one-day workshop on Curriculum Management organised by two schools at Nkatini Secondaru High and Matimba Secondary at Shingwedzi Camp in the Kruger National Park. He was also invited to address a similar workshop organised by Nwanati Secondary School in Makuleke in Malamulele held in Swadini Aventura Inn outside Hoedspruit in Mpumalanga.
Khosa told Inside Education that even with the lack of resources, education must always take place.
“We do not teach subjects, but we teach children. Once we have children, we must make sure they are taught,” said the principal.