This year, a whopping 551 pupils will sit down to write their matric exams at Ogwini Comprehensive Technical High School.
This marks the fourth consecutive year in which Ogwini – a quintile four school, located in uMlazi, south of Durban – boasts the biggest matric cohort in the province.
“And probably the country,” said school principal Vusumuzi Dlamini on Wednesday, before the start of the trial exams.
Last year, the school obtained a 91.67% pass rate. This year, they are aiming to better that.
“We are working towards a pass rate of 92 to 93%, or higher,” Dlamini said.
Getting this many children – all of whom do nine subjects, including maths – through the year is going to be a challenge, but Dlamini and his staff are up to it.
They are holding study sessions in the morning, between 6am and 7.30am, and in the afternoon, between 3pm and 5pm.
After trials, the school will put an end to afternoon study sessions and instead have pupils come in the evenings. Dlamini knows the only way to see results is to work for them.
He was appointed the principal of Ogwini 19 years ago, in August 1998.
Three months later, the department instituted a policy of rationalisation and redeployment, and one of Dlamini’s first tasks was to cut his staff of 91 to 48.
This in a school with an enrolment of almost 2 500 pupils at the time.
The school had been obtaining a pass rate of between 80 and 90% up to that point.
“But then in 1999, because we were so understaffed, it dropped to 48%,” Dlamini said, “I was angry.”
The following year, he instituted a strategy of “strongly supervised study” and started working with parents.
That year, the school’s pass rate sprang up to 75%. “And since then, it’s never dropped below 80%,” he said.
With a pupil enrolment of 3 352, Dlamini and his staff are always working.
“I’m spending seven days a week in the office,” he said. “There is always a reason for me to be here”.
He holds a PhD in Educational Psychology and an MBA, but says his heart is at the school.
“My passion is driven by the understanding that I need to make a contribution and drive change.”
And driving change he is.
The school has already produced doctors, lawyers, athletes, businessmen and women and civil servants. This year, one pupil was awarded a full scholarship to study in Edinburgh.
“I’m immensely proud,” Dlamini said.
Looking ahead, he says, he is just excited to watch more of his pupils reach their potential.