UMkhanyakude is one of the eleven districts in the KwaZulu Natal province. It is a largely rural district located in the far Northern region of KwaZuluNatal Province in South Africa. UMkhanyakude is the second largest District in KwaZulu-Natal, in terms of size, behind its neighbouring district, Zululand District. It is also one of the poorest.

 

I have had the pleasure of attending both my primary and secondary school education in the district. I have been exposed to the appalling teaching and learning conditions in the district for most of my young life. As an adult, I started my teaching career in this district, where I'm still serving to date, further exposed to the difficult working conditions As an educator.

The majority of the schools under UMkhanyakude District are fairly poor with the majority of them falling under quintiles one and two. The district is characterized by remote rural schools that are not easily accessible to government officials and district support teams to render the much needed assistance to the schools requiring urgent interventions. As inaccessible as some of these schools are, they lack plenty primary material resources such as libraries, science and tech labs, to name a few. The infrastructure also still needs a lot of work with many classrooms without door nor windows to keep out the cold in winter. There is a lot of overcrowding in many of the classrooms with inadequate furniture and limited classrooms.

Sporting facilities are considered a luxury by many schools under UMkhanyakude, with the exception of those near towns such as Hluhluwe and Mtubatuba which are slightly developed. Learners play soccer and netball using self-made wooden poles. Unlike learners from township and urban schools, they're not exposed to other sporting codes such as cricket, rugby, tennis, swimming and others due to the lack of facilities.

Despite all these challenges that the schools under UMkhanyakude District are faced with, the district performed fairly well over the last two years with regards to the matric resupts. The district obtained third position in the province in 2017 and maintaining that position during the 2018 National Senior Certificate  (NSC) results. It surpassed urban districts such as Umlazi in Durban.

According to a source at the Department of Education (DOE) UMkhanyakude district office, hardwork is to be credited for the success of the district. "Hardwork of the teachers, parents, traditional leaders and all the other stakeholders has really paid off. They have been working tirelessly in implementing educational intervention programs to assist the struggling schools to achieve despite their shortcomings.

The district is aiming to achieve even higher this year as they are going for the number one spot. They aim to achieve this through planned intervention programs to improve on mathematics, accounting, physical sciences which are the main subjects that learners tend to struggle with. On top of that, there are also programs in place to capacitate and inspire teachers so they inspire learners in turn.

This achievement has been years in the making for the district director Mr T.J Motha and his team. Working together with school teachers and managers, circuit managers, unions and other stakeholders such non-governmental organizations, they were able to overcome many challenges that impact negatively on education. They have been able to change the fate of the district that was known for its poor performance.

UMkhanyakude district, as many other rural districts in South Africa, is a classic example that we can rise above the failures and shortcomings of the department of education to provide schools with much needed resources and infrastructure and still achieve excellence. I wish UMkhanyakude and all other districts in the country all the best as they embark on this educational year ahead.

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