FRANCISTOWN: For over a decade, Mater Spei College (MSC) has proven to be the cream of society through academic excellence.
MSC, as the school is known, has shown beyond doubt that it is the best amongst the rest by being counted as part of top three both nationally and regionally in the Botswana General Certificate Secondary Examination (BGCSE) since 2000 up-to-date.
It was only in 2008 when a dark cloud fleeted overhead when, unfortunately they too position 11 with dismal 39.24% pass rate.
Fast forward 10 years later. In the 2018 BGCSE, Mater Spei attained second position with 39.7% pass rate following the undefeated St Joseph College with 47.7% pass rate.
The fascinating part of 2018 BGCSE is that five senior secondary schools (SSS) in the northern part of the country were amongst the top 10 performers countrywide with Masunga Senior Secondary School having elevated to position three after scoring 36.0% pass rate.
Lotsane SSS from Palapye was not left behind, clinching position five with 36.0% followed by Selebi-Phikwe SSS, which came sixth and Tutume McConnell SS which improved and attained position nine with 25.5% from position 21 in the BGCSE 2017 results.
MSC School head, Jabulani Munyere told Mmegi that he was happy about their consistency as a school.
He revealed that Mater Spei College has been in position two since 2014, which is very commendable.
Munyere said they were working harder on a daily basis so that they could reach their goal of acquiring first position nationally.
However, the school head is disappointed on the percentage pass rate they achieved indicating that the new grading system is killing the students. He stated that since the new grading system where students need to have five credits or better in order to contribute to the school pass rate, more schools are recording poor academic quality performance.
“If a student has four credits they will not contribute to the percentage pass rate because one has to have five credits or better,” said Munyere.
“In the past the grading system allowed best six subjects to contribute towards overall percentage pass rate.”
He added that even though only five credits is considered a pass, students would still be sponsored by the government to tertiary level looking at their best six performance.
The headmaster said that students across the country are not dull like it is perceived, but it is only that the new grading system is very complex and there is need for people to be enlightened about it.
He labelled ill-discipline as one of the leading factors contributing to low pass rate. Munyere added that nowadays children are so sophisticated in terms of technology and can be exposed to both good and bad things leading to the rise of unacceptable behaviour.
He said some students can be exposed to social ills such as drug use and alcohol, which in the past children were not vulnerable to.
He also blamed the poor academic performance on the mother of all strikes, which took place in April 2011 by public servants including teachers. “I feel that the 2011 national strike had serious impact on our academic performance and morale of teachers. The strike made teachers aware of the labour laws, especially the eight hours work period in accordance with the public act and since then some teachers have stopped working without pay,” he argued.
He added that the eight-hour day for teachers means sporting activities and other extra-curricular activities suffer as both teaching and non-teaching staff knock off at 4.30pm since they are not paid extra allowances.
He stated that before the strike, teachers used to work over hours and even took students exercise books to their homes for marking and teaching extra lessons over weekends for free, something that is impossible now.
Mater Spei College school head brightened up when he spoke about their weapon to success.
He slowly picked up his diary and said that discipline was, and will always be key to academic excellence.
Munyere said when students are admitted to their school they develop their self-belief
He said the environment offers love and excellence, which can help prepare the hearts to receive academic and spiritual truths. Munyere said that students could learn and develop their talents without fear, bullying, discrimination or favouritism in their school premises.
He stated that they are also strict with students school uniform and for that schoolgirls are expected to wear what some student describes as ugly below knee line school dress, which remain simple, humble, smart and not vulnerable to anyone.
“We do not allow fancy hairstyles on both girls and boys. Pantsula uniform for boys, afros and braided hairstyles are banned in our school,” he explained.
He said they also have established a new programme named SURE, which stands for Silent Uninterrupted Reading Exercise, which is a silent policy during morning study.
He said during morning study, there is complete silence and students are expected to be reading passages from the English and Setswana departments. Munyere indicated that with the new policy they are trying to inculcate the spirit of reading in the students so that they could wallow in an academic atmosphere and also build mutual respect with staff.
He further said they remain to be the second to none in the region because of their adaptation of another strategy where teachers account for both monthly test and examination results.
He added that every department at the school meets with the board and conduct an exercise where they analyse the results and come up with strategies to improve the students’ academic performance.
The selfless headmaster said both non-teaching and teaching staff have contributed immensely to the academic success. For instance, the cooks deliver food on time and school guards also restrict movement by students as well as giving motivational talks during meetings.
According to the school head, teaching staff have come up with a daily programme book, which is referred to as the ‘bible’. He further said that the ‘bible’ captures all the activities of the school in a year and it also introduces themes such as commitment, anger, loyalty, gossip, sacrifice for every week mass gathering.
Munyere expressed gratitude to the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) who are very supportive financially and emotionally at all times.
He said they have introduced a newsletter, which is given to parents when school calendar ends every term, which informs them of all the activities to look forward to next term.
He revealed that when there is consultation, they receive over 97% of parents’ attendance and not everyone is allowed to collect report for the students.
He added that they also receive support from school alumni who also provide financial support and some even donated computers to the school.
The forthright school head said another thing that motivates the students every academic year is being part of the top achievers for instance in 2016 Susan Agetha Charlie claimed most top achiever with 9 A*, followed by Palesa Bareki who took grade B in JCE but achieved 8 A* and 1A in her BGCSE results in 2017.
He revealed that Alick Abdulraheem was the top student for the just released BGCSE results with 6A* and 3 A.
When speaking about their performance, Munyere said that they attained an outstanding quality pass in a number of subjects with 30 students obtaining A* and 41 A in Chemistry, 21A* and 21 A in History, 15A* and 18A in Mathematics, 12A* and 22A in Geography, 11A* and 14 A in Biology and other subjects.