Dr Ngwako Stephen Sebopetsa, winner of the Global Principal Award.
Dr Ngwako Stephen Sebopetsa, winner of the Global Principal Award.

Limpopo-born educator crowned world’s best principal

By Mashudu Sadike Time of article published Jul 3, 2021

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THE WORLD’S best principal grew up in the remote village of Sekhiming outside Giyani in Limpopo in the 1960s, where neighbours lived in a 1km radius from his father’s house.

His father was a teacher and a principal, and everyone in the community looked up to him for help, such as writing letters to loved ones and solving community problems.

“You are bound to make a success of yourself,” said 61-year-old Dr Ngwako Stephen Sebopetsa, winner of the Global Principal Award.

Sebopetsa, principal at Rathaga Primary School in Rakwadu, Modjadjiskloof, outside Polokwane, beat more than 200 other talented principals from across the world to win the prestigious award.

The award was presented to him through a live Facebook broadcast.

Speaking to Pretoria News Weekend yesterday, Sebopetsa said he was overwhelmed to have been finally recognised for plying his trade.

“I’m so excited to have reached this milestone. The achievement makes me accept that what I do for a living is recognised by the international community. This has nothing to do with monetary gain. Just to know that people recognised me is enough,” he said.

Both his parents are now dead, but he opens up about his fond childhood memories and how his father – a teacher and, ultimately, a principal – inspired him to become an educator.

“I am the first-born of three children from Maria and Gilbert. My father was a teacher, and I grew up in a middle-income family because I managed to get a slice of bread in the morning.

“My father was everything in Sekhiming village. He was a priest, a social worker, a community problem solver. He helped people write letters to their loved ones, but above all, he was my father,” said Sebopetsa with a chuckle.

He said after passing Grade 12 in 1980, he took a break for a year then decided to follow the teaching profession through the influence of his father.

“I registered at Modjadji College in 1982 and completed my teacher’s Diploma in 1984. I started teaching in 1985 at Bakenberg Secondary School in Waterberg, then came back home to Bolobedu and worked as a teacher at Mampeule Secondary and Makhupele Secondary.

“I was then promoted to be departmental head in 1990. I’ve been teaching maths and science. I was appointed as a principal at Lekukela Primary School and then Motupakgomo Primary School from 2006 to 2012.

“In 2013, the Department of Education seconded me to Matome Modika Secondary School as caretaker principal, whose main responsibility was to turn the school from serial under-performance to a functional school.

“I did this perfectly, since the school moved from 25% to 75% under my leadership and management skills.

“‘I’m now at Rathaga Primary School, where I practised my leadership and management skills to the best of my ability.

“I’m told I won the Global Principals Award because of excellent school leadership and management skills. I am highly committed to my work and the performance of the learners is beyond expectations since the learner enrolment went from about 550 to more than 800 learners in the past five years.”

The Global Principals Awards aim to reach out to all corners of the world to identify and recognise exceptional academic leaders who have made an outstanding contribution to their profession, demonstrated excellence in leading their schools, shown outstanding contribution to learners and served the community through their leadership.

Besides the best principal award he has just received, Sebopetsa was third at the 2012 National Teachers Awards.

He is also an author of a book titled Communication With Myself.

He five degrees and five diplomas, the most being a Doctorate in Education Management through the University of Venda. He is currently pursuing his LLB with Unisa.

Limpopo MEC for Education Polly Boshielo said of the achievement: “We are elated by this excellence and Dr Sebopetsa’s achievement at this level.

“This is an affirmation and evidence that we have outstanding people within our ranks, who against all odds continue to strive for excellence. We applaud you for raising our flag this high. You are truly deserving of this award.”


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