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Wesleyan University

Publication Date

Fall 2010

Program Name

South Africa: Social and Political Transformation


Research has documented what leadership qualities are necessary to improve an underperforming disadvantaged school in South Africa. This research has called for further study of effective township schools in order to understand what makes them succeed. This research project will offer a case study of one such school’s transformation from low to high quality. Menzi High School, an entirely African, under-resourced township school in Umlazi, has achieved extraordinarily high matric pass rates despite the fact that the majority of learners live in informal settlements. The school’s success is due to the strong leadership of a principal who has led the school for the past twenty years. By enabling a complete shift in the school’s ‘culture’ and pedagogy in order to foster high achievement, hard working and commitment to learning, he brought the school’s matric pass rate from 26% to 92% in eight years. This ethnographic case study documents that process and identifies the key steps taken by Mshololo as he transformed Menzi from a failing to an effective school. While most previous studies researching school quality limit their fieldwork to either school leadership or teachers and compare multiple schools, this case study is unique in that it integrates the perspectives of leadership, teachers and learners and details the experience of one specific school in depth. The study outlines the strategies that enabled Menzi’s improvement, including learner-centered pedagogy, effective time management and a relentless effort to improve teacher quality. The school’s success is then placed within the context of education reform in South Africa, to document the case of one effective township school, its strongwilled principal and their relationship with the Department of Education.


Education | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Elementary and Middle and Secondary Education Administration



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