The Department of Education (DoE): Mahlabathini Circuit Manager Cluster (CMC) hosted its annual Merit Awards which honour the outstanding achievements of circuit managers, principals, teachers, and learners in the circuit cluster, on the 24th of March 2023. The Mahlabathini Cluster includes six smaller circuits, namely, Ceza, Khanyisa, Makhosini, Mashona, Okhukho and Ondini.

The Mahlabathini CMC is one of the Durban University of Technology (DUT) Community Engagement social partners. They are part of a longstanding collaboration aptly titled the Mahlabathini Schools Engagement Programme. This programme seeks to provide support to rural schools in the remote town of Mahlabathini, and it currently consists of career workshops (facilitated by the Department of Student Recruitment) and physical science demonstrations (facilitated by the Department of Chemistry) for Grade 12 learners. The partnership also features a local non-profit organisation (NPO) from the Mahlabathini area, the Phakamile Mazibuko Foundation (PMF).

DUT was invited to the awards to honour and celebrate the achievements of the schools that form part of their programme and the cluster. To date, the programme has reached over 3000 high school learners in the area.

The Merit Awards were hosted at the Ulundi Legislature Assembly Building, which once served as the primary Legislature Assembly site for the KwaZulu-Natal Province. The grand building was a brilliant foreteller of the calibre of excellence that was to come as the awards proceeded.

The awards were hosted by the charismatic Mr Mthandeni Mkhize, Ceza Circuit Manager, and Mrs Nokubonga Khanyile, a local teacher. The awards also featured guest speaker, Mrs P.J. Madike, a former English educator now an examiner for the DoE, who gave an encouraging motivation to the Mahlabathini CMC members. “We care and we love you. Our hope is for you to succeed and grow,” she affirmed.

The Circuit Education Specialist and Head of the Mahlabathini CMC, Ms Xoliswa Cele, also took to the stage and shared her admiration and pride for all that had been achieved within the cluster. “The year 2022 marked the year of our greatest improvement. Our results have been steadily increasing since 2020 and it is only upward from here. Initially, I was going to say that 90% is our target for this year, but, after seeing what you are all capable of, I think we can aim for 100%,” Ms Cele exclaimed.

The award ceremony included over 16 categories of awards including, “Best Educators”, “Most Improved Circuit”, “100% Achievements in Physics and Maths” and “100% Pass Rate (Club 100 Schools”, to name a few. All award recipients were awarded a trophy and a framed certificate for their respective achievements.

During the award ceremony, the DUT team was also given an opportunity to present. During this time, the Engagement Practitioner, Ms Phumzile Xulu, commended all award recipients for their remarkable achievements. She also highlighted the tremendous work that goes into maintaining and attaining the results that were achieved by the schools and circuits in the cluster. The DUT team also handed over small tokens of congratulations to the two high schools in the cluster that had achieved 100% passes in 2022, James Nxumalo Agricultural High School and Thabani Isaac Gasa High. The team also acknowledged the school from the circuit that contributed a high number of students who registered for the first at DUT, and that was the Mahlabathini High School.

In a surprising turn of events, DUT was also awarded a trophy for its outstanding support and contributions to community engagement in the area. The PMF also received an award for their continued support of the schools in Mahlabathini.

Speaking on the receipt of the award, Ms Xulu states, “We had no idea that we were going to receive an award today, but we are grateful for the relationships we have built with the CMC and our partners. We hope to continue and expand on the work that we are doing in the area. Rural schools’ engagement continues to be one of our most critical areas of support.”

Picture: The DUT Mahlabathini Schools Engagement Team pictured with the principal of James Nxumalo Agricultural School and the Ondini Circuit Manager

Tracy Khuzwayo

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