On Saturday, March 13th, I was in Jwaneng at Kgosi Mpe JSS attending a celebration in which the school was receiving a Multi-purpose hall donation from the Jwaneng Debswana mine. The hall had been constructed at the tune of over P600 thousand. The event was held also to celebrate the national 2012 national JCE examination results. To say Kgosi Mpe CJSS is an exceptional school, is an understatement. In the past twelve years the school has never registered a pass rate less than 89%. For those 12 years the school has been consistently number one in the Southern Region and has been in the top ten schools nationally. That is impressive, especially if one considers that Kgosi Mpe is a government school and not a private institution. Consider the school’s results in the past 12 years: in 2001 the school registered a 91.8% pass rate; 2002 = 98.1%; 2003 = 91.8; 2004 = 94.3%; 2005 = 92%; 2006 = 95.5%; 2007 = 99.1; 2008 = 95.7%; 2009 = 94.7; 2010 = 94.4%; 2011 = 89% and 2012 = 96.2.
What is special about this school? Do they have super kids, super staff or exceptional leadership? What’s this junior secondary school on academic steroids? Kgosi Mpe JSS is found in the southern side of Jwaneng Township; almost in the bush, right on the edge of the township. The school has nine classes of 43-45 learners each (that is certainly large classes!). There are three form one classes, three form two classes, and three form three classes. The total enrolment for the school is 367students, and 55 staff members (both non-teaching and teaching staff). Since 2001 the school has been ranked position 1 in South Region and ranked amongst the top 11 in the country with overall performance ranging from 89% to 99%. Some will certainly attribute the school past rate to its location, that is, because it is in an urban area. They would argue that urban children natural do better than the ones in rural areas. While the theory is interesting, it is insufficient to account for the school’s sterling performance. There are certainly schools in Jwaneng, Gaborone, Lobatse, Francistown and Orapa which perform far lower than Kgosi Mpe. Why is it that they with their urban location they are unable to produce the same results as Kgosi Mpe?
The second argument I have heard is that the feeder schools to Kgosi Mpe are better. At the centre of this argument is that there is actually nothing special about Kgosi Mpe JSS; the school happens to be fortune to receive excellent students who are already equipped to pass. This argument though interesting is not compelling. It actually functions to diminish the success and achievements of Kgosi Mpe. If it were true that Kgosi Mpe’s feeder schools provide Kgosi Mpe with brilliant students, the question would certainly arise where the feeder schools got their brilliant students from. Certainly, someone somewhere is responsible for developing this academic brilliance.
The final theory I have heard is that Kgosi Mpe is successful because of its headmaster. There is general some truth to the idea that excellent school management does have a bearing on the school’s results. But headmasters do not teach students. They may provide leadership, but they do not lead schools alone. The current headteacher of Kgosi Mpe, Miss S.T. Ntesang has been with the school for only two years, but she is continuing with the school strategic plan to ensure the academic success of the school. This demonstrates that the school’s plan is institutional and not just vested on the headteacher.
There are good reasons why Kgosi Mpe is a successful government school and after learning what they are doing differently, I am convinced that they would probably continue to be brilliant for a long time. The school has a detailed Academic Excellence Strategic Plan which articulates the school’s vision in the development of academic opportunities and performance. This is not just a document which resides somewhere in the files of the administration block. It is a living strategy which is implemented in the day to day life of the school. The strategy is designed in a manner that motivates students, parents and staff. It promotes quality assessment aligned to the Botswana National Examinations set standards and strengthens partnerships with the community, parents, staff and students that results in education being the first priority of the school. The school also analyses students’ results monthly to identify both poor and outstanding student and staff performances. The school has a solid Parents Teachers and Students Association, led by Mr. PT Motsilanyana, which ensures that education is taken care of by teachers, students and parents as a team. The school also has a strong pastoral team which emphasizes a strong moral code amongst the learners. Another matter which attracted my attention is how the school utilizes its support staff in areas which are usually taken care of by the teaching staff. For instance, the school’s night watchman, Mr Botsweletse Steam, is the school’s athletics coach. The school has also started a new program to recognise excellence amongst its staff. The school has set itself a target of 55% quality and 95% overall pass rate per subject and class. Those teachers who have been able to beat this target were awarded P1000 vouchers while those who managed to reach the school target of 55% quality only were awarded P500 voucher. The non-teaching staff members who contributed to students’ skills development while not compromising productivity in their core mandate areas were also awarded P500 vouchers. To motivate the current crop of students, four students who attained a Grade A in the 2012 Junior Certificate Examination, Refilwe Phaladi, Mompati Rabasimanyana, Leago Pule and Maduo Maoto were invited to the Awards Day and awarded prestigious school awards.
That is in part Kgosi Mpe’s miracle. The teachers are fun and vivacious; the head teacher Miss Ntesang, is a humble and extraordinarily warm individual. The partnership between the school and Jwaneng Debswana mine through the Adopt a school is remarkable and seemingly unbreakable. The Honourable Dr. Gloria Somolekae spoke at this event while the Jwaneng Debswana mine sent in some of its top officials to officiate. It appears to me that for our schools to achieve success, they have much to learn from the miracle that is Kgosi Mpe JSS.