Medupe harnesses potential

Mathibedi wa-Medupe, deputy principal of Seshegong Secondary School, outside his school. Picture: Jacques Nelles

‘At this academy, we show the pupils the road does not end for them if they are not academic performers. We show them they can work on their stronger skills and develop them.’

With the passion to reach the heart of the issues within township schools, including teenage pregnancies and gangsterism, a Gauteng teacher launched a leadership academy in his school to “mould the future leaders of the country”.

Since the academy was established in 2012, Seshegong Secondary School does not only boast a reduced number of disciplinary cases, it also has requests for its circulation to eight nearby schools, including Olievenhoutbosch Secondary School and Eersterust Secondary School. Mathibedi wa-Medupe, deputy principal and the man responsible for the academy, was born and raised in Randfontein.

He said he was always drawn to leadership and never protested when nominated to lead. He served as a prefect in secondary school and was a youth leader in his Catholic church. However, a similar leadership academy would have been useful for a lot of his fellow pupils. “Back then, I noticed there was a huge gap between the academic achievers and the non-academic achievers.

“Schools only paid attention to the pupils who performed well, and this was problematic for the other pupils because it made them believe they were not and could never be ‘one of them’,” said Medupe.

“At this academy, we show the pupils that the road does not end for them if they are not academic performers. We show them they can work on their stronger skills and develop them.”

He said his passion for leadership and a vision to contribute towards “developing an African child in totality” was the push he needed to establish a leadership academy in a school facing problems, like gangsterism, drugs and teenage pregnancies. Seshegong Secondary School’s disciplinary cases have now reduced from about 20 a week to nearly zero, which he says is the direct result of the academy that now “keeps the pupils busy and has a positive impact on their behaviour”.

He attributes the success of the academy to the Values Champions Empowerment Session he attended in 2015, which was facilitated by Columba Leadership. It taught him how to use his passion for leadership to promote pupil engagement through a value-based programme, which includes an intense application programme, compulsory community service, academic mentorship and more.

One of his Grade 11 pupils, Triphina Masemola, said: “Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders. That has been Mr Medupe to us at Seshegong. He brought us together as pupils … and we all work together as a team.” Medupe continued: “This leadership academy started off as a dream of mine … but I never thought it would become so big.

“I said to myself, ‘This country needs strong leaders’, and I began to ask myself how I could contribute towards it because I believe I am in a good position to do so, dealing with pupils on a day-to-day basis.

“So, it really melts my heart when my pupils, both alumni and present, now tell me that it has really made a positive impact in their lives,” said Medupe. Acting Columba Leadership Gauteng provincial manager, Monique Blignaut said: “Mr Medupe has spent 17 years in education, creating a challenging yet welcoming classroom environment where he maintains high standards and expectations for all students, regardless of differing learning styles or backgrounds.

“Teacher development is a strong part of our programme. “Teachers have the power to change and develop pupils so that when they leave school, they have met their full potential. “Mr Medupe has now changed his whole school and his pupils’ lives for the better.”

– jenniffero@citizen.co.za

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