The Turnaround Campaign

Matshidiso Madia Matshidiso Madia

A day after the 2012 matric results were released, stories of shared hope, cooperation and constant dedication are starting to surface. These are different tales that truly explain how the class of 2012 scored 73.9 percent, the highest marks since the birth of the country’s democracy.

Some children obtained their matric despite many personal hardships; for others it was a matter of knuckling down and studying hard.

Gauteng schools went a notch above their peers by producing the country’s top marks. Among the province’s success stories is the Edward Phatudi Comprehensive High School in Atteridgeville, west of Pretoria.
In 2011 only 36.6 percent of Edward Phatudi’s grade 12s passed their final exams; twelve months later their pass rate soared to 90.4 percent.

A school now referred to as one of Gauteng’s most improved, it is filled with beaming learners and an equally proud principal who’s currently taking a deep breath before leaping into the 2013 academic year. He wants to deliver results which some outside of his community might assume were obtained through sheer luck.

Mike Masango, the principal of the Edward Phatudi Comprehensive High School in Atteridgeville, west of Pretoria. Picture: EWN.Mike Masango wants to keep out of the limelight. He appears a little weary of the public interest he and his teachers have suddenly gained because of the dramatic improvement in his school’s matric class results. Despite this, he’s a man committed to his pupils and one who decided a year ago, to renew his vision for his school.
 “After the 2011 results, we had many people coming here offering us advice - even those who’ve never taught a day in their lives were suddenly experts as to what we needed to do to improve our matric results.”  

Masango says what proved to work was a collective effort, including the school’s governing body, sponsors and influential people in the area. This group discussed how to make dramatic improvements at the school and some would often personally address the pupils, hoping to keep them motivated.

Seeing a spirit of self-belief grow in his pupils, Masango then turned his attention to his two deputy principals and numerous heads of departments. The goal he had in mind was to spark a need for them to constantly be aware of how their learners were faring against the syllabus.

“I used to ask them ‘how many children in your department are at level one?’ And if someone said 14, I’d then say to them ‘I need you to work with those pupils so we at least have 10 or 11 at level one next quarter’.”

The continuous assessments resulted in teachers who were constantly aware of areas where their children were battling and helped educators create programmes specifically aimed at dealing with those weaknesses.

Masango says at one point he sat down with the year’s worst performing pupils, warned them about the possibility of crashing out of matric and worked out a study timetable which they needed to follow outside of school. But he didn’t stop there. Masango would also follow up with random phone calls to learners’ homes, asking parents to check if their children were studying as they had promised they would be.

Did he ever give up on his idea of producing a majority pass?

“I sat here with the HOD telling me to quit, that producing 60 percent was not good enough, because our school will still be labelled as a priority case and an underperforming school. That’s when I placed our 2012 target at 80 percent. That was followed by MEC Barbara Creecy’s visit and she said just aim for 60 percent. When I refused, she said it’s impossible, that we couldn’t do it. I refused.”
And true to that vision, Masango’s matriculants are being celebrated and he’s ducking and diving from the media, not wanting to sound boastful in public.

“There’s already a lot of pressure. We can’t go backwards. From here we must deliver either 90 percent or shoot straight for a hundred.”