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Masters of their destinies: Hibberdene Academy

| March 23, 2015 | 1 Comment

Our motto, ‘Be the master of your destiny’, is emblazoned on our school uniforms to serve as a daily reminder to our students. These are not just empty words – they embody the ethos on which our educational approach is based. Our children come mostly from socially and economically depressed areas and fractured families in the Turton/Mtwalume districts, so the school takes on an important social support role as well as providing academic tuition. We try to empower learners to have hope for the future. We have a vision of students who are happy, enthusiastic learners, secure in their uniqueness, while being fully equipped with the necessary life skills to become shining examples of citizens of South Africa. We also hope that they will become effective participants in the global community.

Care for the community

We are a small school with a fluctuating enrolment of between 150 and 160, but constantly remind our students that we are ‘small enough to care and big enough to make a difference’. We prioritise a whole-school community programme, collecting plastic bread tags that will become part of a wider project to provide wheelchairs for deserving people, and we collect tinned food for the Church cupboard, as a part of a local ‘Fillabag’ programme. More recently, we filled 115 shoeboxes for the Santa Shoebox Project.1We have met on Saturday mornings with the Lions Club to help clean up our beach, and regularly spend time cleaning the road in front of the school.

Making a difference at school

It is with a sense of authentic pride that we can say that we make a visible difference to our students. We offer high-quality education, presented by qualified teachers, supported by exceptional administrative staff. We are accredited by the Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training (UMALUSI)2 and a proud member of ISASA. We also offer the Independent Board of Examinations to our learners. We have established a competent learner support programme and are working towards implementing more and more services to benefit our learners. This year, we are breaking new ground and taking in two interns trained in ISASA’s Maths and English (M&E) programme3 to complement our highly trained staff.

Modest means Private education of this quality is usually only available to the more affluent. We provide these services at a cost affordable to the everyday person. At present, we depend on school fees and a small subsidy from the government, so our dedicated staff work for the love of teaching – not for the remuneration. At the moment, no class has more than 24 learners, and we hope to keep our classes small and personal, while understanding that we must still increase our numbers. What we are doing is looking for more sponsors for some of our financially challenged families. Even our staff members support deserving pupils.

Humble beginnings

The Hibberdene Academy was established in 2000 and was built as a Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) project4 for the benefit of the community. Initially, seven brickand- mortar buildings, plus an ablution block for males and females, were built. When the RDP project came to an end, the buildings were turned into a school, known then as the Hibberdene Primary School. Gradually more grades were added, enabling us to now offer tuition from Grade RR to Grade 12. While the schools was growing, more classrooms were added in the form of log cabin structures that were perfectly in keeping with the rural, rustic nature of the school. We now have 20 rooms on campus, including the laboratories and the administration office. We have yet to house the principal in her own office – her classroom has to serve a dual purpose. The school name was changed to the Hibberdene Academy of Excellence, and then, more recently, to the Hibberdene Academy.

The wondrous white blazer

As the English medium school grew, so too did choices for the pupils. Four years later, we are able to offer tuition from Grade RR up to matriculation level, with three paths – science, commercial and humanities – as well as core mathematics or mathematical literacy. We like to think this will give the learners a head start when they leave school and seek to be employed. Our first Grade 12 matriculation external examinations were in 2011 and we are proud to say that we received a 100% pass rate. We only had five pupils and had to take them to the nearby town of Port Shepstone every day to write their examinations, but between them they achieved seven distinctions. In 2013, we bestowed academic colours on Jeane Mbambo. This was the first time a white blazer had ever been worn by a Hibberdene Academy pupil and, in the beginning, it caused a bit of a stir, especially among the pupils in the lower grades. It was a proud moment for us all. Mbambo herself said:

This intimate and secure school has taught me many lessons, including the importance of balance. I have grown to be independent, and to challenge myself and explore my capabilities. It is truly a place of educational excellence, where the educators strive to allow you to ‘be the master of your destiny’.

Mbambo has been awarded a full scholarship from Stellenbosch University and will be studying medicine in 2015.

With a little help from our friends

We are proud to be able to offer a tuckshop that sells a meal every day, and we provide sandwiches (assisted by donations from the Lions Club5 and the Methodist Church) for those pupils who would perhaps otherwise have no food during the school day. We have almost an almost equal division between girls and boys. Transport is also a challenge: often there is a problem with our children getting to school, especially in the rainy season. We have few covered walkways and no school hall, so the rainy weather provides us with some interesting additional circumstances.

Having safely reached school, our cultural offerings of chess and choir keep our pupils busy. Many delight in the 21 computers linked to the internet in the laboratory, set up with funds donated by the Hibberdene Farmers’ Association and the Hibberdene Business Forum.6 Our science laboratory was donated by Illovo Sugar.7 Until we have fields of our own (the land allocated for the school fields by the municipality is actually a protected wetland), we hold our sports days on the road outside our school. The foundation phase has limited playing space as well as limited equipment, but they make the most of what we have, often competing with the monkeys that have adopted our campus as an excellent ‘pantry’ for food!

A long-term advantage

By harnessing the right combination of knowledge, experience and innovation, we help learners to realise the full potential of their resources and derive a long-term, competitive advantage. In the words of one of our student leaders, Siobhan Callow: Hibberdene Academy provided me with the tools to be able to spread my wings and fly into the big, bad world, full of confidence, leadership skills and the basic knowledge to overcome any obstacles in my life. Not only was it a place where I was taught about Shakespeare, DNA and organic chemistry, but it is also a place that I can call my other home. Hibberdene Academy moulded me into a woman with strength, opinion and determination, and made me realise that I am the master of my destiny.

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4. The African National Congress (ANC) developed the Reconstruction and Development Programme to address the many post-apartheid social and economic problems facing South Africa. (Source:
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Category: Autumn 2015, Featured Articles

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  1. Sihle Sithole says:

    My name is Siphesihle Sithole I am a fourteen year old and I was hoping that they may be a open position in the grade 9 classes in the year 2017 ,I admire this school and I wish to be one of this school’s students . I am exceedingly smart and independent . I have great IT skills and I have always wanted to attend Hibberden academy . please give me a chance to prove that I am worthy of wearing the school uniform .

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