Nyukani Education Centre, joint winner of the Sustainability Award in the category for medium enterprises
We’re not afraid to break the status quo, says school principal
Some might say it’s a miracle that the Nyukani Education Centre is still running after the financial devastation from the Covid-19 pandemic. As a private, fee-paying school for Grades 0 to 12 in Giyani, a deep-rural area of Limpopo, Nyukani found itself in dire straits when the pandemic struck.
Like all other schools in South Africa, Nyukani had to close its doors for the duration of the hard lockdown and when it resumed teaching, it faced seemingly insurmountable financial difficulties. “It was very tough for our parents; more than half could not pay their children’s school fees and many were pulling out. We designed a means of survival,” says Mr Jainos Ticharwa, the school principal.
This survival strategy involved some tough decisions: downsizing, sacrificing certain subjects such as agricultural science and English first language, and appointing attorneys to collect historical debt.
On a more positive note, Nyukani Education Centre rolled out e-learning on a grand scale. Drawing on the generosity of stakeholders, the school acquired 500 tablets and 50 Gigs of data for each and every child and introduced Google Classroom and Google Meetings to keep teaching and learning going.
“When the parents saw how serious we were, they did their best to support us,” he says, adding that the school also reached out to the community. “We started programmes for after school and our teachers started training other young teachers and offering subject advice,” says Jainos. “We are state-of-the-art rural school, which has become the hub of education in the region.”
So 2021, which could have been the worst year in the school’s five-year existence, turned out remarkably well. ““For 2021, Nyukani produced the best results in the region and for the National Accounting Olympiad, our learners were placed in the number one and two positions.”
The school has also excelled in the annual national and provincial mathematics Olympiads – an achievement that caught the attention of nine-year-old maths prodigy Professor Soborno Isaac Bari when he visited South Africa in October 2021. “It astounds me how great the leadership of Nyukani Education Centre is. No wonder four of your students have already won the Math Olympiad,” Professor Bari said.
Other aspects of the school that tend to surprise visitors are its systems and structures, including a financial manager, facilities manager, registrar and administrative manager. “We have a lot of systems in place,” says Jainos, pointing out that the school was a runner up in the 2021 tt100 award for excellence in the management of systems.
What is important is that these systems and structures are decentralised and not centralised, he says.
“There is no one genius or hero in this school because we collaborate. We are all managers and we all own the systems and processes. When we have problems and need assistance, we come up with solutions. Although we are a young school, we are a powerful team. We are lifelong learners and we are not hesitant to break the status quo.”