The name Bhekeshowe, if directly translated, means looking at Eshowe or looking after Eshowe. Eshowe is a town midway on the road towards the northern Zululand from Durban. Bhekeshowe High School is about 28 kilometres from the nearest town, Eshowe. It is about 800 metres from the regional road linking Eshowe and Empangeni, another important town towards the coast of mid-Zululand.
A lot has happened in education and it had a lot of influence in the life of many educational institutions. To some it had so little influence because of internal school controls, but in the majority of schools it had a negative impact in the way it was received. Human beings are by nature social beings and they listen, see and react to what is happening around them. It is not strange that Bhekeshowe High School was somehow negatively affected by circumstances within their environment. Quite a number of teachers who were the pillars and quite instrumental in producing good results in the school resigned in 2014, some looking for greener pastures elsewhere. Losing teachers meant that the School Management had to recruit new teachers. Most of the experienced educators in the school left and in 2015 new teachers started at Bhekeshowe High School. The introduction of Jika iMfundo had come at the right time for the school as they needed readily available solutions. Much as the curriculum was available and ready for implementation, a suitable approach was needed to ensure stability and a sound learning environment. There was no time to waste thinking about what had to be done as learners were waiting in the classroom.
When talking to the Principal, Mr F.J.R. Mdluli he clearly states that before the introduction of Jika iMfundo most managers relied on the guts to manage the schools. Even though they had experience which led them to the positions of management they hold, there are moments when the manager needs to rely on well-researched and scientifically designed models in order to build a strong school. No wonder then, that when Jika iMfundo was introduced to them they embraced the programme and it has served the school well as they are restoring all the strengths the school can attain.
In most, if not all, instances it is a person’s approach in doing things which determine whether he succeeds or not. The approach is quite significant in determining the result. If the approach is negative, there is much likelihood that the result will be negative. On the other hand if the approach is positive the result is obviously positive. A person may have been doing a particular task for years, but results change for the better as soon as the approach is positive. As the saying goes, the attitude determines the altitude. Likewise, relying on the guts does not guarantee good results.
The Principal stated that the results began to take an upward swing as soon as they changed the approach and relied on the newly introduced programme, Jika iMfundo. Much as it is regarded as the pilot programme, to him it is the programme that has to be an integral part of the curriculum. Since the introduction of Jika iMfundo programme the School Management Team has a direction in managing the curriculum. They now have clarity as to which aspects of the curriculum they have to focus on as they manage the curriculum. On a day to day basis no one amongst the staff is not sure of why s/he is at school. Everyone has something to do and this in turn ensures that work is done and the curriculum is taken care of.
That the programme is embraced at Bhekeshowe does not mean that everybody embraced it from the beginning. Some of the teachers and management initially had mixed feelings and were sceptical about Jika iMfundo campaign. This was a new programme coming after a number of other initiatives most of which did not last long. It did not take long for them to realize that this is a good tool and eventually it was accepted by the majority of teachers as a vehicle of success in working the curriculum. The newly appointed educators in 2015 were orientated through Jika iMfundo as it had been embraced as the vehicle which would help in managing the curriculum. He gives credit to Jika iMfundo that the school managed to improve the Matric results by 10% from the previous year when they had lost experienced teachers.
The Deputy Principal Mr C. B. L. Mhlongo relates his story that he vividly remembers the day when he was introduced to Jika iMfundo. In that first workshop he could not hold back his excitement. On that day it became clear to him that he had found the best recipe for teaching and learning. He emphasizes that if teachers can do their work of teaching, properly, education will thrive. The words that struck him and still keep him focused is that “whatever we do matters.” Whatever the manager does, whatever the learner does in class, in fact, all that we do matters. He believes in the motto and he applies into all aspects related to his work as a teacher and as a manager. According to the Deputy Principal this motto defines the concept of Jika iMfundo so well. This is the concept and the point of departure they use at Bhekeshowe High School.
What Jika iMfundo said to him as a Manager is that no one can confidently say s/he is managing education without the tools to perform that task. These tools were not imposed to the Managers and educators. They were given the exposure to the tools and it is up to each manager to make use of the tools and adapt them to his environment. The tools were designed as templates and all they had to do was to adapt those tools to his work and activities of teaching and learning at Bhekeshowe High School. Once a person develops a sense of ownership s/he becomes able to control the area in which s/he operates. Jika iMfundo brought the tools to manage the curriculum. As part of the School Management Team, Mr Mhlongo says it with confidence and meaning in his face that they have become more organized in management through Jika iMfundo.
Teachers have not been specifically exposed to the management of the curriculum in the way Managers have been, even though they have attended the workshops. This is where the role of the Head of Department and the Deputy Principal becomes critical. Teachers have been empowered in becoming experts in managing the content of the subject which is critical in their role in the classroom. The focus of the workshop has helped the educators and the Just In Time workshops live up to their name, as they are conducted at the beginning of the term. This has a major contribution in teaching and learning.
Trackers have been so useful and effective in tracking what is happening in the classroom. This tool called the tracker does not only track the effectiveness of the concepts in the classroom, but it also serves as a source of reference for the teacher, guiding him on the pages to refer to in the book and what activities to do. It has indeed become easier to manage the curriculum coverage using the trackers. Trackers help in self-monitoring and self-evaluation for teachers and for managers to be sensitized whether there is a need for improvements or any area that is lagging behind.
On improvements that may be recommended, none was recommended by the Deputy Principal and the Principal. He confirmed this point by reiterating that tools are well designed to be adapted by each school to its environment. Jika iMfundo many not be expect to get to the level of designing tools for every individual school.
With the right frame of thinking and with a positive attitude teaching and learning will change and keep improving with Jika iMfundo. The team of Bhekeshowe High School do not see any bright future in education without Jika iMfundo. The programme really is turning education around at Bhekeshowe High School and it is still working wonders in improving management capability. Since Jika iMfundo is facilitated by experienced individuals who are experienced educators themselves, this brings about professionalism which is greatly appreciated by teachers and school managers. This is a plus for Jika iMfundo programme.