Bulungula College (BC), founded in 2019, has emerged as a centre of excellence, defying the odds and delivering quality education in the rural Eastern Cape of South Africa. Despite the socio-economic challenges faced by the area, BC has achieved remarkable success, including a 100% pass rate for its second matric cohort in 2022. 

So what makes Bulungula College so successful? We have five keys to providing excellent high school education in a deeply rural, under-resourced community:

1. Keep it learner-focused

  • Unlock the potential of every learner, regardless of academic ability.
  • Provide comprehensive support, including meals, learning materials, and extra assistance for struggling learners.
  • Offer psychosocial support through a Learner Help Desk.
  • Partner with a clinic or healthcare facility to offer STI and reproductive health services at school.
  • Offer second chance Matric support for learners who did not pass initially, including applying for exam rewrite at the nearest Department of Basic Education, study material, tutoring and transport to the exams.
  • Set up extracurricular activities, including sports, drama, chess, and field trip excursions.

2. Harness the power of being community-driven

  • Involve the community in decision-making processes through a governing committee.
  • Ensure representation of traditional leadership on the school’s Board of Directors.
  • If you recruit teachers from outside the community, encourage them to rent accommodation within the community.
  • Employ staff members (administrators, cooks, cleaners, security, maintenance, etc.) exclusively from the community.
  • Encourage parents to be involved in the school by starting a volunteer meal-cooking programme for special school events.

3. Diligently implement inclusive school policies — No lip service!

  • Enforce a strict no-corporal punishment policy so that learners feel safe and excited to come to school.
  • Support and work with weak-performing learners to help them reach their full potential and never cut a learner based on their academic performance.
  • Keep pregnant and mother learners in school by providing ongoing psychosocial support, assistance in clinic date appointments and a school catch-up plan.

4. Don’t forget the big picture, and be part of a holistic development model

  • Operate within a holistic development model that offers integrated services in health, nutrition, skill development and job networking.
  • Make sure learners are supported after they graduate by emphasising the long-term development of learners beyond earning a Matric certificate.
  • Make substantial investments in learners’ education, recognising their immense individual potential in alleviating poverty for their families and community.

5. Be guided by a data-driven strategic plan

  • Facilitate workshops with teaching staff to address challenges and strategically plan for the school’s development.
  • Develop a data-driven strategic plan with actionable items assigned to responsible individuals.
  • Continuously review and update the plan based on data analysis and feedback.

By implementing these key factors, our school has been able to create a high-quality level of education in an area where it operates as the first and only high school. To learn more about how this looks at Bulungula College, check out our in-depth report: