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Bringing glory back to Peka



The article titled:“The Rot at Peka High School” in thepost newspaper of 27 January – 2 February 2022 written by ‘Mapule Motsopa provoked intense debate among members of the Ex-Peka High School Students’ Association (EXPHISA). Ms Motsopa describes Peka High School as “teetering on the verge of collapse, fighting for survival” (SIC). The timing of this article coincided with the release of the 2021 Lesotho General Certificate in Secondary Education (LGCSE) examination results. The LGCSC results confirmed the crisis. Even so, there are positive developments taking place at the school. I am writing this article as an interested party because I am a former student of Peka High School and a member of EXPHISA. EXPHISA invited me to respond to Ms Motsopa’s article. Whether intentionally or not, Ms Motsopa and her editor provoked an intensive debate among EXPHISA members, hence this response article. I do not seek to argue with Ms Motsopa’s article. Instead, I will present EXPHISA’s intentions and actions. EXPHISA is not being reactive. It is being proactive. EXPHISA initiated the 18 – 19 January 2022 workshop and invited the media to cover it. Ms Motsopa quotes Mr Matsobane Putsoa as saying EXPHISA wants “… to reclaim the school’s character formation and building.” He concludes the interview by pointing out that EXPHISA is pushing for accountability, the pursuit of excellence, and other traits that the school was famous for. But this spirit of EXPHISA is lost in the article. Mr Putsoa is part of the glory days of the early 1960s. The motto of Peka High School is: ‘Luceat Lux Vestra’ translating to ‘Let your light shine.’ The 2022 LGCSE results and the portrait painted by Ms Motsopa do not reflect this motto. In the meantime, EXPHISA had begun the process of introspection and paving the roadmap to bringing Peka High School back to its glory days. EXPHISA endeavours to reignite the spark ingrained in ‘Luceat Lux Vestra.’ The purpose of this response article is to augment Ms Motsopa’s article. I will complete the unfinished story by highlighting the outcomes of the recent workshop. I acknowledge Mr Putsoa’s aspirations for the Peka High School of tomorrow. The workshop made resolutions that will catapult Peka High School beyond its glory days. Many authors define ‘success’ in terms of achievement. Governments and scholars relate a schools’ success to achievement. In this case, the term ‘achievement’ means the performance of students in the LGCSE school-leaving examinations. Success does not lie in the achievement of a goal. It comes from the will to succeed, leading to the saying: ‘Where there is a will, there is a way.’ Often, general society, including Mapeka, run themselves down by pointing at things that would make them fail. As Nightingale puts it, “nothing can change until we do. Mapeka must talk about reasons why they can turn Peka High School around. So, success for our noble ideal comes from us first. It does not come from outside. When we change, our worlds will change.” The above arguments demonstrate a simple natural law, the ‘law of cause and effect’. Earl Nightingale defines success as the progressive realisation of a worthy goal. This definition recognises that success lies in the journey toward the goal. Desire and persistence drive success. Nightingale’s definition is progressive. EXPHISA hosted a workshop on 18 and 19 January 2022 for the principal and teachers of Peka High School. Consequently, EXPHISA generated a report from the workshop. The workshop invited the media. This workshop was a product of consultations between EXPHISA, the principal and teachers. Six students from Peka High School wrote for the 2021 LGCSE examinations. Only one obtained college admission grades. The results are not a record that one could be proud of. Accordingly, parents do not send their children to Peka High School anymore, resulting in a decline in enrolment. Ms Motsopa paints an ‘ugly’ portrait of Peka High School. According to her, a traumatic sight confronts visitors when they enter the gates of Peka High School. A bush of shrubs and weeds fill the surroundings. There are incomplete buildings, falling infrastructure, broken windows and doors, there is no running water. There is a huge debt with the Water and Sewage Company (WASCO). This is a crisis. The EXPHISA consultations identified the problems as the rift between the principal and the teachers. The ‘rift’ manifested itself in several ways. The main one is the school ethos. The term ethos here means the characteristic spirit of a culture as they manifest in its attitudes and aspirations. The workshop confirmed that there is a hostile and distrustful relationship between the principal and his teachers. There is no communication between the two parties. Staff meetings are seldom. Management decisions are unilateral. The principal and his teachers have no common vision for the school. There is no synergy in the thoughts. They do not draw power from one another. Power, here, means organised and intelligently directed knowledge. Simply put, their relationship is toxic. Each party is suspicious of the other. Unfortunately, this situation translates into the school’s ethos and overspills into the students. Our attitude determines our outcomes. In the case of Peka High School, the attitudes of one party towards the other mirror the attitudes the other displayed towards them. In other words, the success of Peka High School’s endeavours to go back to their glory days depends on how well the different parties relate to others. Their attitudes towards the others. Napoleon Hill devotes a whole chapter on “the Power of the Mastermind” in his book, Think and Grow Rich. The Mastermind Alliance is a cooperation of people actively engaged in the pursuit of a definite purpose. The group complement each other to accomplish this purpose. Although all members of the Mastermind group think in the same way, they have different knowledge and skills. But, the members work together in perfect harmony to ensure success. Any successful organisation has a Mastermind group. The lack of purposefully directed and coordinated effort denies Peka High School this valuable principle. The school cannot benefit from the highly qualified and talented collective that Hill describes as the Mastermind alliance. Instead, the awkward predicament at Peka High School presents an undesirably chaotic situation. But mathematicians and scholars argue: ‘there is order in chaos.’ The chaos theory says there are underlying patterns and interconnectedness within the apparent randomness of a chaotic complex system. In other words, if one looks closely, there are patterns that the stakeholders could build on. In the case of Peka High School, even with all the negatives, there are some strengths that the Peka High School of today can draw from. Peka High School stakeholders acknowledge that there is a problem. This is acceptance represents a step towards a solution. They expressed commitment to the solution. All the stakeholders supported the resolutions the workshop generated. All the teachers at Peka High School are qualified, with a majority holding university degrees. Many of these teachers have been in the school for ten years or more. Some stayed in the school for over thirty years. These teachers identify with the school. They declared themselves as one; Mapeka. The teachers explained that they shared a lingua franca only understood by them. This demonstrates strong bondage and unity amongst the teachers. All these are powerful. They lay a foundation that the school may build on. According to the EXPHISA report, the workshop identified desirable attributes. The workshop converted these desirable attributes into targets that Peka High School would need to achieve to return to its glory days. These targets are: A Centre of Academic Excellence The school must ensure that teaching resources, including textbooks and other study materials, are available. Teachers must display dedication. There should be annual plans demarcating regular staff meetings, distribution of official documents and allocation of duties. A Great Sporting School Peka High School must re-introduce different sporting codes. So, the sporting fields must be restored and be made playable. Although sporting activities would begin as internal activities, the long-term plan is to return to competitive competitions. A Centre of Leadership The school must establish clear lines of communication between stakeholders, internally and externally. The conduct of the school’s authorities must be exemplary. Peka High School must build students’ leadership skills by re-introducing a prefect system, establishing student organisations such as science clubs, Student Christian Movement and entertainment clubs. Last, the school must consider introducing a [2]four-way test approach. A School with a Culture of Unity and Collective Responsibility There must be proper communication channels between and among various structural components of the school. Stakeholders must develop open-mindedness and accept constructive criticism. All stakeholders must engage in team-building initiatives. A Learning Centre of Choice The school must reward good performance by introducing awards and incentives systems. This system must be as inclusive as possible. The school must consider using the ‘Peaceful School Model’ of the Development for Peace Education (DPE). Peka High School and EXPHISA must publicise their initiatives, such as the workshop of 18 – 19 January 2022 to sensitise other ex-students and potential partners. They must invite parents, the community to take part in activities directed towards re-kindling Peka High School and giving it a new lease of life. According to the report, the 18 – 19 January 2022 workshop achieved true reconciliation among the parties that were at loggerheads. The post-workshop evaluation confirmed the success. The majority of the participants said the workshop achieved its objectives. A feature emerging from the workshop is that the school already has some solutions, for instance, a challenge that keeps cropping up in different fora is the lack of prescribed textbooks. Yet the school keeps textbooks in the principal’s office. Students do not pay for textbooks. The Schools Supply Unit of the MoET charges schools on textbooks on dispatch. A school is liable, whether the students pay for the textbooks or not. The principal explained that he ‘loaned’ the textbooks to one class on the condition that the books were returned. This endeavour worked. The school can adopt this system. The point here is that there is a solution to the challenge of the availability of textbooks. Peka High School must pursue the MoET’s Schools’ Supply Unit textbooks policy. Another example is the faith and confidence teachers had in their colleagues. Challenged to explain why they did not enrol their children at their school, one teacher retorted that she tried to. She identified her colleagues who had the expertise and dedication to teach her child. When she discusses her child’s LGCSE results, she still reiterates that she could have passed the LGCSE examination if she had enrolled with Peka High School. The teachers and participants committed to ensuring that the results improve to an excellent stage. The school management and other stakeholders promised to provide the necessary. With the confidence and enthusiasm that the teachers displayed when they made this commitment at the end of the workshop, I can only say: ‘watch this space.’ Let the general readership and Basotho be the judge. The report concludes that EXPHISA commenced the processes of improvement. After the January 2022 workshop, Peka High School is in the process of developing strategies leading to the implementation of its objectives and targets. The report warns the stakeholders that the road ahead is steep and challenging in many ways. In summary, this article proposes a title that befits the purpose of school education and EXPHISA’s resolve to bring back the glory days to their alma mater. At the same time, EXPHISA’s effort acknowledges Ms Motsopa’s assertion. The overarching challenge that the 18 – 19 January workshop sought to tackle is the lack of coordinated management. The principal and his teachers were habitually at loggerheads. They had no shared vision. Management failed to utilise its highly educated and dedicated teachers to overcome their challenges. Stakeholders must change their attitudes towards each other and work in synergy. Peka High School must prioritise addressing the cleanliness, the water crisis and clearing its debt with WASCO. The school has to set systems that ensure orderliness. The premises, the prevailing ethos, school management and teachers’ conduct must promote students’ learning. Peka High School can only improve. According to EXPHISA, the workshop was a success. It achieved full reconciliation. It identified five targets that would return the school to its glory days. These targets are a centre of academic excellence, a great sporting school, a centre of leadership, a school with a culture of unity and collective responsibility, and a learning place of choice. EXPHISA and Peka High School will follow the strategies leading to success. Teachers coming out of this workshop promised to produce phenomenal LGCSE examination results. To conclude, the effort to establish harmony between the school management and the teachers was a success. Our overall goal is to rekindle the spark in Peka High School’s motto ‘Luceat Lux Vestra’. To achieve the desired success the school must build on its strengths. Taking Nightingale’s definition, success lies in the journey toward the goal, EXPHISA is successful. However, the workshop is part of a process leading to a destiny. Now the real work begins.

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