New leaf for Limpopo education

The NECT programme in Limpopo is based on an understanding that the drive for change begins by ensuring that every person involved in teaching and learning must believe and understand that all learners have the potential to succeed, regardless of their circumstances.

The National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT) believes that a process to effect a complete transformation in an already established system needs to begin with changing the mind-set of all stakeholders. This new mind-set, once established, enables the introduction of innovative ways of doing things that will result in the education system achieving the vision of the National Development Plan: “ensuring that 90% of learners pass Maths, Science and Languages at 50% by 2030”.

The NECT is already a year into its flagship programme, Fresh Start Schools (FSS), which identifies schools that are in need of critical intervention. The fundamental shift in the focus of this programme recognises that every learner can be successful, that every learner can learn and perform well in school despite their personal circumstances.   This recognition has an impact on how principals lead schools, how school managers hold school staff accountable, and how teachers plan and deliver their lessons. 

The makeover therefore seeks to shift how principals, teachers, parents, learners and community members prioritise and focus their energy on supporting learners in schools to perform at their full potential.

“While a ‘school improvement programme’ assumes that what is already in place can be built on, a ‘school turnaround’ aims at changing attitudes and practices completely”, says Dr Mauvia Gallie, who guided the NECT school leadership intervention programme in Limpopo to the end of July 2015, and this is exactly what the FSS Programme is doing.

The aim of this programme is to share tools and methodologies with the schools so that they become places where all children can reach their full potential. This means that the teachers, principals, district officials, curriculum support specialists and parents understand how to optimally use tools for the ideal educational upbringing of every child. This process starts with creating awareness of the need for change, and then guiding the schools through the change process.  The NECT employs Change Agents in the Waterberg district, namely Waterberg and Mogalakwena, and Vhembe, namelyVhembe and Tshipise/Sagole, for the purpose of driving the programme in schools.

One of the tools shared with the schools is a ‘principals’ pledge’, which encourages principals to commit to great leadership practices in their schools.  The programme has helped school management realise that in order to complete the curriculum, 170 days of the school calendar must be used for teaching and learning.

“A big learning for teachers was when they found they were using 95 days instead of 170 days for teaching. This helped school management and teachers realise why they are getting poor results - they are simply not teaching the full curriculum. We have learned to minimise disruptions and maximise teaching time. Examples of this are marking during class time, monitor and appropriately use time allocated for teaching by lessening other disruptions such as sports days, district visits, teachers taking too many leave days and teacher late arrivals and early departures, amongst others” said Mr M J Matlou, Deputy Principal at Kgagathu Secondary School.

The programme assists schools to break up the curriculum and plan for it properly. The curriculum support project also makes subjects such as mathematics and science easier to teach.

Parents are also encouraged to take part in their children’s education. They are encouraged to partner with the schools in order to ensure that learning never stops. Studies show that parents play an important role in helping their children develop a positive attitude towards education, including the supervision of homework and their attendance in school. Parents are taught how to ensure their children establish good habits and routines in doing homework, to take an active interest in their child’s education and to get involved in the structures of the Schools Governing Bodies.

The province currently has 119 schools under the FSS programme. 

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