By Fiona Wakelin
Please give us an overview of the journey which led to becoming the Principal of Motheo TVET College.
I served as a Lecturer, a Senior Lecturer and Acting Head of Department in the Education Faculty at Sefikeng College of Education until 1999. I then moved to the Free State Department of Education, where I got appointed as a Chief Education Specialist for Curriculum Management Exams and Skills Development. With the unfolding of events in my career, I moved to the Human Resource Development Section in the same Department, where I served as a Deputy Director for HR Planning and later HRD. I also acted as a Director for Organisational Human Resources Development.
There was a need for me to later return back to the college sector, where I came back to support the then Administrator at Motheo TVET College as an Acting Deputy Principal for Academic Affairs in order to improve the academic results at this college, which was in dire need.
In August 2013, I got appointed as the Principal of Motheo TVET College and that was a defining moment in my life and career. I acquired various leadership qualities: being sterner, patience; coping with various personalities and character in the workplace as a leader, emerging stronger in the midst of challenges, to remain focused in the midst of challenges and confusion, and also that it’s not about you but your position and women leaders are expected to perform more than their male counterparts. Above all it’s good to perform at your maximum to realise maximum performance, and it paid off in the end.
- An outstanding Leadership Idahlyn Kare’ Leadership Award received from the Chair Leadership Academy in Texas, USA in 2014.
- A driver for change Award, Vision 2030 by the Vision 2030 unit in the office of the President of South Africa.
- An Honorary Professorship of the Academic Union, Oxford, UK.
- Introduction of Maritime Studies at the College and the vision to have Maritime Faculty or Academy in the form of Jumbo Ship
- The Establishment of the National Artisan Academy that will offer 12 trades at the centre in Bloemfontein Free State
- Successful implementation of online application and registration process
What does your role entail?
My role is to drive the efficient and effective implementation of college governance frameworks and systems and functioning of governance structures, including the college council and the academic board. I am also involved in building and fostering an effective management team that plans and executes the college mandate in an integrated, compliant and performance focused manner. Furthermore, my responsibilities are to:
- Fulfil the role of accounting officer of the college by establishing and monitoring college financial and supply chain management systems towards the achievement of strategic goals and in compliance with all relevant legislation and regulations.
- Establish and monitor effective human resource management and stakeholder engagement systems incorporating both marketing and communication.
- Create a platform for effective management decision-making through the establishment of an accurate and accessible information management platform.
- Lead the development and delivery of responsive vocational and occupational curricula and programmes and monitor the associated quality assurance programme and impact on student performance and placement.
- Operationalise business partnerships and linkages that translate into student placements, workplace based learning and articulation.
- Establish and manage a student management framework and system that facilitates student support and governance and provides all enrolled students with holistic academic and social support.
- Establish and lead the college infrastructure and estate management system that assures the acquisition, maintenance, management and disposal of physical resources that facilitates the achievement of strategic and operational objectives.
- Facilitate programme articulation and upward progression.
What have been some of your major milestones?
I was directly involved with the Increase in the pass rate from 6% in 2012 to the following performance as a college:
- Ranked position 3 out of 50 TVET Colleges for Engineering Studies NATED programmes in the 2020 academic year.
- Ranked position 13 out of 50 TVET Colleges for NCV programmes in the 2020 academic year.
Another milestone that I am proud of is all the amazing accolades we have received, such as PMR Platinum Awards for the Best Post School Institution in the Free State Province since 2013 to 2021, numerous International Awards for the Educational Institution since 2016-2021, as well as receiving recognition for being The Best Disability Support Institution out of 50 TVET Colleges in South Africa in 2020.
What services does Motheo TVET offer?
The College operates from three delivery sites, namely the Bloemfontein Campus, situated on the edge of the Bloemfontein CBD, Hillside View Campus situated on the outskirts of the township of Mangaung in Bloemfontein and Thaba Nchu Campus in Thaba Nchu.
It also runs a number of satellite campuses and projects throughout the Central Free State and Xhariep region e.g. Botshabelo, Koffiefontein, Zastron. The college, thus, spans diverse catchment areas from urban to peri-urban to rural, from the more affluent communities to the financially disadvantaged. In this manner the college is ideally situated to bring a comprehensive range of learning programmes to the entire Free State.
Each of the three campuses has particular attributes, specialist facilities and expertise that will allow the college to provide a wide range of programmes and services to the community without undue duplication.
The Hillside View Campus boasts sophisticated engineering workshop facilities accredited by the MERSETA, including various skills programmes for the artisan. It is one of few sites accredited to deliver the traditional automotive trade tests. The Bloemfontein Campus is well-geared for the presentation of programmes in the hospitality services, management sciences, the humanities, SETA accredited hairdressing and beauty technology. The growth in the Hospitality Services Department has been considerable and its products are sought after. Despite its rural setting, Thaba’Nchu Campus offers programmes in construction sciences, engineering, management sciences and clothing technology, thus providing services directly to the community. This campus is well equipped with modern science laboratories, and facilities for clothing design.
How has COVID -19 affected Motheo TVET College?
We have implemented an effective health and wellness strategy where issues related to COVID-19 are managed correctly. The College has seen an improved hygienic culture in line with the COVID -19 protocols, and our staff receive continuous COVID-19 protocol training.
This pandemic has also given us a push towards the accelerated implementation of 4IR in our education model. We have a new working culture which consists of flexible working/office hours in our physical building. We also allow our staff to work from home.
In your view how important is the TVET sector in growing the South African economy?
The TVET Sector plays an important role in the economy as it offers knowledge and skills to students. It offers programmes that are responsive to the economy at an affordable price. The TVET College sector has a focus to train students to be self-employed.
Investing in TVET is investing in national socio-economic development. TVET holds the key to technological progress, rapid industrialisation, wealth creation and poverty reduction. The TVET College Sector plays its role as a catalyst for socio-economic development more effectively when local manufacturing enterprises become more vibrant.
What trends have you noticed in the sector in the last few years?
There is a strong focus on entrepreneurial development in the TVET College sector. I have also seen the incorporation of innovative trends related to digital technology and Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).
How has technology impacted on your business model?
We are working with two online teaching and learning platforms to offer virtual teaching and learning:
- The Moodle platform was developed by three IT specialists at the college for all Business Studies NATED programmes.
- A Student Hub platform for all Engineering Studies NATED and NCV programmes.
We have employed an Electronic QMS business manual for the college against the ISO 9001:2015 quality standard. We have adopted an E-procurement system for our college, and constantly work to improve the internet system and WIFI connection for all delivering sites of the college. A supply of laptops for 280 lecturers and 3000 laptops to all Engineering Studies and all NCV Students was made available. We were also granted accreditation as IT Academies of Excellence by CISCO and Huawei for IT programmes in line with ideals of the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR).
What exciting plans do you have for the upcoming year?
- Opening of National Artisan Academy
- Piloting of New IT Robotics NCV Programme level two to four at Hillside View Campus
- The establishment of Maritime Academy at Thaba Nchu Campus
- Establishment of Centres of Specialisation for skill development at three campuses
Do you have a message for people out there struggling to survive?
Going through struggle is not about suffering, it’s about overcoming adversity. The aim is not to avoid but embrace this struggle. We learn through this. Even after experiencing the darkest places, we can find the light again in our lives because the Lord is with us at all times. We must be strong in our faith!
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