WHEN speaking about Jobert Ngwenya (pictured), a trailblazing and innovative teacher at Eveline High School in Bulawayo, the institution’s head, Sithabile Moyo, pupils and members of staff have nothing but praise.
“I don’t believe there is anyone who can question his integrity or ideals. He is a committed, principled and exemplary person at school and in the community,” says Moyo.
Last week, Ngwenya, an award-winning innovative teacher, was honoured as an integrity icon by Accountability Lab Zimbabwe, an organisation that promotes good governance. He also won the people’s choice award, in recognition of the tremendous and exemplary work he has done as a teacher.
Among other achievements, Ngwenya has helping students escape poverty by assisting them to venture into entrepreneurship. Some have thriving businesses, and have become employers.
Accountability Lab Zimbabwe holds the annual event to recognise honest public servants who display integrity in their job. Icons are selected by their communities and recognised by the organisation for their outstanding work.
Ngwenya has been the chaperone for Eveline High School Junior Achievement Zimbabwe Club since 2016. He is also the entrepreneurship educator at the school working under the auspices of Teach A Man to Fish’s School Enterprise Challenge programme since 2017.
Nomathemba Takabinga, the head of department (Guidance and Counselling) at Eveline, says Ngwenya is the only male teacher who joined an initiative to empower girls at the school.
“Mr Ngwenya is not shy even to distribute sanitary pads,” she said.
Mrs Takabinga and Ngwenya are involved in running the gender-based violence desk and various initiatives to cushion vulnerable girls including paying examination fees.
Funds are raised through various projects, introduced by the duo, among them a garden project, chicken farming and agricultural shows, among others. She said through life skills introduced during camps introduced by Ngwenya some former pupils are making a living.
These include Michelle Madamombe who has formed a company supplying detergents after being taught how to make detergents at one such camp. Her company, Yashelle, manufactures and supplies hand washing liquids, sanitisers, toilet cleaners, multi-purpose cleaners, Vaseline, floor polish, pine gel cleaner and sanitisers among other products.
“Mr Ngwenya actually assisted me to register the company and I used the knowledge from the skills camp to start the project. He also took me to the ministry of Youth at Mhlahlandlela Government Complex to assist me to get a loan for youths involved in start-ups. Of course, I have been taking part in webinars and finding means to extend my knowledge but my company was formed from the skills camp,” Madamombe said.
Under his guidance, Eveline High School relaunched the entrepreneurial education and financial literacy programme with Junior Achievement Zimbabwe in September 2016. In 2019 and 2021, Ngwenya’s learners won the National Company of the Year Prize, among other accolades.
The school has also been participating in the School Enterprise Challenge with Teach a Man to Fish charity winning the Best Business Idea Award in 2017, Best Digital Business Award in 2018 and a student Enterprise Adventure Prize in 2020.
Being a chief executive officer and content creator at Fundi Trust, a non-profit focussing on entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills, he was a nominee for the Africa Education Medal last year.
His other awards include the Ciena Solutions Challenge Sustainability Award 2022 for high school Challenge-Based Learning initiatives; Digital Business of the Year Award 2018 (Teach a Man to Fish Charity) and Best Business Idea of the Year Award 2017 (Teach a Man to Fish Charity).
Ngwenya believes he has made a difference because of his strong personal values which are anchored on diligence, handwork and honesty.
“I always see myself as a ladder for my learners and hearing their success stories always gives me something to smile about,” he says. Despite being involved in numerous initiatives, he managed to deliver 100% Advanced Level pass rate from 2012 to 2019, a record broken by the Covid-19 pandemic. During the pandemic era, he introduced extra lessons and delivered individual instruction to learners through online platforms.
On his impact on students, Ngwenya says: “I have imparted the culture of creativity and problem solving through entrepreneurship education. I believe my students leave the school with a growth mindset and the desire to stand up to societal challenges instead of complaining about them. “I have managed to also help them have access to various opportunities locally and abroad, for example starting their own enterprises, attending international events, with the most recent having been one former student going to Switzerland, one to France and the other to the USA, while others are attending the prestigious Africa Leadership University in Rwanda,” Ngwenya said.
“For the vulnerable learners, I have shown that they can work hard, earn a living from honest means and scale above what their circumstances may dictate. For the entrepreneurial education learners, I have helped them cross pollinate ideas through various programmes like representing the country in Ghana (2019) and Mauritius (2022), Ciena Solutions Challenge YouthMADE Festival (USA) in 2022.
“Through Ilifa Lethu Project, ilifalethu.co.zw, I am also empowering learners to be creative as well as use mobile devices for educational purposes while connecting their learning experience to the community they live in.
“Through Fundi Trust, a non-profit I co-founded, we are impacting young lives with financial literacy skills to enable them to learn how to earn, save, invest, and spend as well as providing an excellence scholarship to deserving learners in St Peter’s Mazwi Primary School in Bulawayo and Phakama Primary School in Matabeleland South.”
Eveline High School has been appreciating his work.
“He is that type of person who goes the extra mile, if you ask him to do anything, he is a person you can count on. You know he will do it to the best of his ability…He actually lives up to the moto of the school, Upright and True,” says Moyo, the school head.
Moyo says Ngwenya has taught his students to be responsible for themselves and the community while empowering them through the Teach a Man How to Fish programme. The deputy head of Eveline, Sihle Ncube, says Ngwenya is outstanding in his work and community.
“Mr Ngwenya is a man of integrity. He stands out as a teacher; he is actually a cut above the rest. He has a unique character, maybe because he is a Christian; he is very patient. He is a hard worker and he is obedient. He has a lot of respect for authority, and you know, he has respect even for the learners and teachers as well and the ancillary staff. He has such respect such that even when there are industrial actions, Mr Ngwenya does not participate.
He will remain teaching his learners. That’s his character,” Ncube says.
“He has actually imparted entrepreneurial skills to the girls, to be self-reliant, to be self-sufficient. He has empowered our girls so that even after school they are able to do something in life. It’s not everybody that makes it. If a learner fails to pass the examinations, it’s not the end of the world.”
Ncube said Ngwenya was innovative to such an extent that he wrote an economic history textbook with two colleagues after the new curriculum was introduced, when they realised there was a shortage of teaching material. The teachers donated books to the school and sold others.
Accountability Lab Zimbabwe country director McDonald Lewanika says the integrity icon campaign, which has amplified Ngwenya’s work, acts as a conversation starter on accountability and integrity in public service.
“Besides celebrating members of the public service who go over and beyond the call of duty to operate with integrity, the Integrity Icon Campaign acts as conversation starter on accountability and integrity in public service. The intention is to facilitate conversations that allow people to take a closer look at what integrity is, rather than what it is not. It uses positive deviants such as naming and faming public service employees who display integrity,” Lewanika said.
He said the campaign presents models of what integrity looks like in practice and adds to conversations of what it is not.
“Through sharing, Integrity Icons stories, the campaign triggers conversations, and inspires others to walk the path of integrity. So far, we know that the campaign and the stories of the icons have had demonstration effects, that is, the fact that others are doing it, has triggered interest in doing the same. We are getting more requests for information on the campaign and testimonies of how it has inspired other public servants, who previously thought they were alone,” Lewanika said.
“As such, the campaign has been building a coalition of reformers within the public service who believe in certain professional, ethical and excellence stands when serving the public. For us, this is a big win in the fight to shift norms and values in public service, and is a huge step towards building responsible leaders and accountable institutions.”