Mhlume is associated with sugar production but there is another side that the name signals - school of excellence.
Mhlume High Principal, Della Lukhele said the school has been associated with quality and the results serve but confirm this assertion.
The school commenced operations in the early 70s and was at some stage a government owned public institution. Mhlume was once known as a place of ‘the soccer kings’ in the past after achieving innumerable success in the sport. The downside, however, was that the excellence ended inside the field of play as academic results were consistently bad.
But things changed for the better when the then Mhlume Sugar Company took over administration of the school.
The company introduced the 13th cheque and that saw everyone being motivated and getting into full swing. Evidently teachers exerted themselves with much aplomb, winning numerous prizes in the process with the academic results amongst the best.
That saw a number of learners from the school qualifying for admission at the University of Swaziland. For the first time in the school’s history, the community of Mhlume and just about anyone wanted to associate themselves with the brand Mhlume High had become.
As years went by, the school attracted a number of excelling pupils who enrolled for their studies there as Mhlume High’s success story reverberated across the country.
“I’m new in this place but those I found here briefed me that the high school’s first lessons were conducted at Mhlume Primary. This was before the construction of the high school. The high school was under the leadership of Marko Gwebu and when it moved to the new premises, the late Albert Heshane Shabangu was the principal and had to leave for studies abroad, leaving the institution under the guidance of Boniface Gina.
“Constance Zulu took over from Gina and it was at that stage that Simeon Malaza took the administration of the school. Mhlume Sugar Company then improved all the sports-fields and that saw us introducing new sporting disciplines.
Malaza came from Waterford Ka-Mhlaba and introduced Hockey, Cricket, Basketball, Rugby, Athletics, Ladies Soccer, Netball, Lawn and Table Tennis, Badminton, Swimming, Boxing, Karate, Volleyball and traditional dances like Sibhaca and Ummiso,” said Lukhele.
She said other than the above sporting disciplines, their learners were taught public speaking skills. Mhlume teaches learners to project their voices if they want people to listen to them whenever they are addressing the public.
This has seen the learners doing exceptionally well in public speaking competitions. Winning has become an integral part of the school that sweeping boards in competitions entered in is no foreign phenomenon anymore.
The policy of the school has changed so that every learner is now urged to identify a sport he/she could engage in the various sporting codes available.
Varying subjects offered
Mhlume offers a number of subjects that learners have to choose from. Those at junior secondary are expected to take English Language, Mathematics, Integrated Science, siSwati, English Literature, Geography and Agriculture.
They get the opportunity of choosing between Metalwork, Woodwork and Graphics.
Those doing Technical Drawing have to choose between Systems Control. Home Economics includes Food and Nutrition as well as Fashion and Fabrics.
History, Accounts, Business Studies, Religious Education and Information Technology also form part of the subjects done by the learners at this level.
Those doing the IGSCE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) in Form Four and Five are compelled to do English, siSwati, Maths and Physical Science.
They have to choose between Food and Nutrition or Science. They have to choose between Agriculture and Business Studies or Religious Studies.
There are also those that have to choose between Business Studies and Accounting. Biology alternates with Geography. Geography can also be sacrificed for Literature and can be replaced by History. Geography can at times be substituted with Biology. Food and Nutrition is a stand-alone subject to those who choose to do the subject. Geography alternates with Accounting. Agriculture is a subject that can be a stand-alone subject.
Design and Technology is a subject that can be done on its own. Information Technology is done by all learners at the school.
For a long time now Mhlume has consistently attained not less than 97 % in all external examinations.
The principal said despite the RSSC (Royal Swaziland Sugar Company) mass retrenchments at the turn of the millennium, the school was not affected. A number of then RSSC employees left but they left their children in the company houses.
Ex-teachers include country’s heavyweights, politicians
Former teachers at the school include Nkomeni Ntiwane, Goodman Kunene, Albert Heshane Shabangu (late former DPM) and Ministry of Education PS, Patrick Muir, just to name a few.
The country’s economic slump saw the school’s fortunes change.
The company cancelled incentives provided to excelling teachers. Instead of the usual 13th cheque, teachers who stood out were now given 25kg bags of sugar. Years later, the company decided to do away with the incentives.
Lukhele said the school’s success was now based on hard work and dedication and that has led to everyone putting an extra effort in order to make sure that the school remains at the top. “Our school is known the whole country that we are not taking chances. Everything that we do is driven by passion. The way the school has been performing has seen the school attracting learners as far as Sihhoye, Nkambeni, Shewula just to name a few.
The economic slump has seen the Swaziland government bouncing back and the school was now getting support from the government. The company continues to assist the school in other areas.
She said teachers at the school were getting discounted rates when renting company houses. Lukhele said the company was also assisting the school with other needs and her school was grateful for that. The school has 680 learners and these pupils are taught by 36 teachers who all at the school’s premises.
Ex-pupils are high profile personalities
One of the high profile former pupils of the school are Patrick Myeni who is General Manager is one of the senior managers at Mhlume.
There is Shares Manana another senior official at the Royal Swaziland Sugar Company (RSSC), Goodman Kunene former Education PS and now Chairman of Scholarship Selection Board, Dr Sazile Ndlangamandla, Dr Dumsile Mabundza, a doctor at the Mbabane Government Hospital, Dr Mavundla – based at the RFM, Ian Thwala a businessman of note, Ricardo Kruger – Swaziland Revenue Authority (SRA) Information Officer, SRIC GM Robert Zombodze Magagula, Naphtali Gumbi, Mandla Chauke a senior manager at RSSC, Joseph Zitha, businessman based in the Republic of South Africa and Dr Sihle Zwane, a lecturer at the University of Swaziland.
Other former pupils of the school are Sandile Dlamini and Sabelo Ndzinisa, both employees of the Swazi Observer.