UNIZULU Alumnus Recognised for Exemplary Leadership

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UNIZULU Alumnus Recognised for Exemplary Leadership

UNIZULU Alumnus Recognised for Exemplary Leadership

The University of Zululand (UNIZULU) is celebrating with its alumnus and convocation member Sizwe Desmond Zwane, who was lauded for his stupendous leadership at Empangeni High School during the recent 22nd National Teaching Awards (NTA).

The NTAs are held annually by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to acknowledge teachers who perform at their peak, often amid challenging circumstances. “Such teachers provide for better futures for learners, because the lack of quality education is a major factor behind many social, political, economic and health challenges faced by the world today; as well as contributing to poverty, prejudice and conflict,” the DBE website reads.

Principal Zwane was nominated by his colleagues at Empangeni High School in the Excellence in Secondary School Teaching category. This category recognises individuals who are exceptional at their work or who have blazed a trail in their workplaces.

On receiving the recognition from NTA, Zwane said he felt humbled, adding that the award did not belong to him but the entire school. In addition, this recognition had placed the school on the map.

“The award vindicates the work we have been doing as a school for the past four years. Since 2018, when I was appointed, together with the then SGB and the current one, we have been working together on our vision to be an internationally recognised school, and on our mission to produce globally competitive learners – and all our programmes have been translating to that. We have set the vision not to compete with any institution, but we have said let us have a framework that we’ll be using as an institution to pave a way on how education should be given to the current generation of young people,” said Zwane.

His achievement has been met with excitement from his staff members, who cannot stop singing their principal’s praises. Kerry van der Westhuizen, the receptionist at the school, described Zwane as a team player who encourages everyone to aim for excellence at all times. “He inspires everyone each and every day to work to their fullest potential. He tries to push us to achieve the biggest goals ever,” she said. Student teacher Juniqua Grobler said that one of the things she admired about Zwane is his humility and resolve to transform the school. According to her, he has undertaken many projects, including the renovation of the learners’ bathrooms, hostels and the school hall.

Zwane assumed principalship in 2018 – making history as the first black individual to ever ascend to that level in the school. Through employing an inclusive leadership style (where every member of his team is part of actualising the school’s vision), he has accomplished great feats in terms of the curriculum, academic performance, extracurricular activities, sports and infrastructure.

“In 2017, the matric pass rate went down to 90%, which according to our school, is the lowest. Our average is usually 94 or 95%. In 2018, we took the school to 97% and we were the top school in the district because we got the highest number of bachelors, distinctions – and we produced the top learner in the district, out of 20 000 learners,” said Zwane.

Under his leadership, the school has also augmented its subject complement with Robotics Coding and Marine Science, launched a new music centre and renovated its sports facilities. The revival of sporting codes such as rugby has had amazing returns as teams are performing exceptionally, competing both nationally and internationally. In 2022, the school was pleased to see some hockey and rugby team members representing it in Ireland.

The school has been excelling on the music front as well. The choir has been competing at national level since 2017 and won two national competitions in 2022. A music fanatic and conductor of the school choir, Principal Zwane holds the successes of the choir and school band close to his heart.

Educational background

Zwane obtained a BSc in Environmental Management and a BSc in Geography from UNIZULU. His longstanding involvement in the choral music space (both as a vocalist and conductor) led him to a career in teaching. After securing employment in this profession, Zwane proceeded to study towards a degree in education through the University of South Africa. He also recently completed his Master’s degree in Educational Management from UNIZULU.

– Naledi Hlefane


Award-winning principal, Sizwe Desmond Zwane, with learners from Empangeni High School.

Picture: Samkele Sokhela


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