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Life in Lenyenye

| March 8, 2012 | 3 Comments

By Ruth Tsitsi Chadambura, Washaya Clifford and Borchards Rennete

In the north-eastern corner of South Africa lies Limpopo, popularly known as the Garden of Eden because of its natural beauty, its rich folklore and bountiful fruit production.

In the heart of the province is the Greater Tzaneen Municipality, home to both the town of Tzaneen and Lenyenye township. The former is characterised by lush, green gardens, while the latter is marked by distinctive drybaked red earth. In this township, there are high levels of poverty and unemployment. This is where Matseutseu Maropeng Combined School (MMCS) is situated.

Breaking new ground

MMCS was founded by Rosina Modiba in 1998. Modiba started her teaching career in 1971, progressing from teacher to Deputy Principal, then to lecturer and Head of Department at Naphuno College of Education. Armed with Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education degrees, a vast knowledge and experience in education, she started our school. A lot of people were sceptical and critical, believing that independent schools were for the elite, not the small township of Lenyenye. However, Modiba’s passion for teaching made her determined to see her dream become a reality, and she managed to turn an old bus depot into a school in 2000! Not a state-of-the-art school, to be sure, but it was a start. Amazingly, the community responded and soon she even had to offer hostel facilities to accommodate the large number of Grade 0–12 students who wanted to enrol.

Scarce resources, but abundant passion

Modiba’s aim was to provide the community and surrounding areas with a low-cost independent school; a safe environment conducive to learning. She wanted to give every child an opportunity to reach his or her full potential. In our area, often during school hours, you find children roaming the streets. Modiba wanted to keep the children off the streets by creating a school that would motivate them to want to be there. That meant Matseutseu had to be unique.

The school’s survival depends on the payment of school fees by parents who save and sacrifice a great deal so that their children can continue their education at a quality independent school. We have not managed yet to mobilise additional funding to support much-needed infrastructural development.

Despite this challenge, we make the best of our available resources and are grateful for the dedication and hard work of the staff. Upon joining the school, new teachers are made aware of the fact that we do not compromise on quality and of the importance of learner-centred education. The Principal, being an experienced educationist, provides what she terms “in-service training” for educators at least twice per quarter. This is crucial for our school, as we often lose teachers who leave for what they perceive as ‘greener pastures’ in the public schooling or business sectors.

Arts and culture We would like to share with you some of the roles played by culture in our school. Enrolment figures rose sharply this year as a result of good academic achievement, as well as the inclusion of art and culture activities in our school. Art and Culture is taught as a subject and is taken very seriously. The children just love the paints, crayons, singing and dancing. The arts are not just fun, they awaken the creative part of the brain and enable the children to express themselves and make new discoveries. Parents are requested to provide a colouring book and crayons once per quarter to supplement the school’s resources.

In our Visual Arts classes, we try to use recycled material to save money. We teach the children the importance of recycling everyday material that ends up in our landfills and damages our ecosystem. In this way, we impart important life skills to our pupils.

In the high school, Arts and Culture is incorporated in an informal manner into the curriculum on Wednesday afternoons and after school on other days. We encourage the students to participate in community competitions and events and, to our delight, a group of boys and girls started an interior decor club. They can turn a classroom into a wedding venue! They do the decor for special events at the school, and to support them, we bought some materials for them to use because we believe that they are tomorrow’s entrepreneurs. The children love what they do and we love to watch those who are not necessarily academically gifted but who have other gifts. It is our wish to build an art studio or at least a hall for the various activities, and to provide formal training in the form of short courses during school holidays.

Culture extends to community partnerships Culture encompasses many aspects – the way we greet, dress, bury our dead, marry and so on. Our learners and staff come from many different cultural backgrounds – black and white, Afrikaans, Pedi, Tsonga, Shona, Zulu and Venda. To foster unity, cooperation, acceptance and tolerance in our school, we celebrate our different cultures on Heritage Day. Learners and staff dress up in their different cultural attires and prepare and share cultural dishes. We have observed that most prefer dishes from other cultures!

It is important for the school to respect the cultural values of the community and not to be in conflict with them. We must have a shared vision. For example, the boys in our community undergo traditional circumcision rituals, and we must respect that. To establish a common ground, and to protect the health of the boys in question, we have regular meetings with parents.

In the first school quarter, our meetings with parents are very fruitful and this is when we discuss matters pertaining to learners’ conduct. In subsequent quarters, parent attendance is poor, so we have resorted to calling meetings by grade. We inform them of meetings in advance via letters and cellphone SMS. We believe the school is an extension of the home; therefore, to raise well-mannered, cultured children who will successfully enter the mainstream of society, parents and the school must work together. We expect our learners to be disciplined and uphold the values we teach them. Our school is renowned in our community for having disciplined learners.

Challenging cultural stereotypes

Culture is dynamic. In traditional societies, there are certain things that can only be done by certain people, or by a particular sex. For example, building is done only by men. We endeavour to provide a non-sexist modern learning environment. In the crèche, our children are not restricted to certain toys. We allow the children to explore and be themselves. In sports, we do not restrict girls to netball, we encourage them to do sports normally done by boys; likewise, we encourage the boys to play netball! Girls are encouraged to take up challenging subjects like Physical Science, Mathematics and Accounting. It’s a traditional belief in our society that only boys can pass these subjects, but at our school the girls are the top achievers in the Matric examinations.

We care what happens to our learners after Matric. Because we are situated in a high-poverty area, we believe that organising career guidance workshops is critical. Learners are encouraged to choose career paths that they will enjoy, not what society deems fit. To gain support from parents, we make use of guest speakers, the most effective of whom are school alumni.

Creating a reading culture

We have a school library and it is our goal to improve the literacy levels in our community and school. Learners are encouraged to read, and to respect the value of books. Our philosophy is that one cannot withdraw money from the bank when no deposits are made. In other words, students must accrue vocabulary, and use it when they write. Every year we host reading competitions to motivate our children to read more. English is the medium of instruction in the school and most children who join us from other schools struggle, therefore books go a long way to improve their fluency. Besides English, we also offer Sepedi, Xitsonga and Afrikaans.

Our library consists of one small room and can only accommodate 20 learners at a time. It is our dream to one day have a bigger and better library. Thanks to the Rotary Club in Johannesburg and Biblionef, this year we have more books. We would love to have a cultural corner in the library that would depict the various cultures in our community.

Part of a larger family As an independent school, we are accountable to the parents who are paying school fees. We have to provide high quality education that enables each child to achieve their full potential. Being an ISASA member enables us to keep abreast of trends across the school sector. We also believe in the value of the regular quality assurance ‘audit’ administered by IQAA that we must undergo. We also have the privilege of getting financial guidance and advice on other school development issues at ISASA conferences and meetings. As a developing school, we need all the assistance we can get.

Category: Autumn 2012, Featured Articles

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Comments (3)

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  1. tebogo msiza says:

    i would like to thank this school for helping me reach my goals. The passion of the teachers is so great that i also adapted to it. Please keep up the good work for we will be able to bring our kids soon to be in the same hands that nurtured us

  2. emelda mabuza says:


  3. keneilwe tau says:

    hello I’m Reneilwe kgatle I’m in grade 10 I have field 1ns and I’m 19yrs old and thy did not want me to see my papers and shedu so what can I do?

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