Last September, the University of Cape Town confirmed the placement of its UCT Online High School Director and Principal, Ms Yandiswa Xhakaza, who experienced the consequences of an unequal education system so dire, that she dedicated her life to finding solutions to provide high-quality education at scale.
Xhakaza believes that UCT Online High School is exactly what this country needs. She explains that the digital divide and barriers we have as a developing country, like computer literacy and data costs, among others, pose an exciting challenge because “when we get this right, it will be a massive win for all of us.”
Yandiswa began her tenure last November and says she is “delighted to join a team pioneering such amazing work” and looks forward to charting a course she’s been preparing her whole life for.
We sat down with Yandiswa to find out more about the Mom, leader, and avid educationalist:
Q: If you could pass on any wisdom to your learners, what would you share?
A: We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are. Our world view is informed by our own lived experiences, which can be limited or confined to our little family, neighbourhood, or culture. This can either limit your life or expand it, seek expansion by all means necessary.
Q: What is the best thing about being the Director and Principal of UCT Online High School?
A: I get to shape and inform the culture of the school, its values, and practices. I have the important responsibility to speak over 5000 lives and hope to impart love, care, kindness, and meaningful values that will be useful tools to navigate life in all of its complexity and that is a responsibility I do not take for granted.
Q: Why should guardians and learners be open to online schooling?
A: It is a sure sign of “moving with the times”; economic revolutions happen and very few people become early adopters, and early adopters will always have the first-mover advantage above others in all spheres of their lives. Online learning is symbolic of a global shift in education as we know it and being at the forefront of this change simply means we are pioneers and will learn faster than the rest.
Q: How do you show your school spirit?
A: School spirit in an online environment is always tricky as physical connection is limited. Our school song is what unifies us as a school at this present moment, and there will be many other aspects of the school that unify us soon, for now jamming to the amazing, ‘We Own The Future’ is what makes us UCT Online High School.
Q: Any advice on how to cope with stress and anxiety?
A: Breath! Nothing is worth your peace of mind, you cannot be productive if you are stressed and anxious. Don’t overwhelm yourself with unnecessary clutter and commitments. Uphold your boundaries and don’t hang out with people who make you feel undervalued and disrespected. Take it easy, the world is not going to stop because you took a break to just breathe and recalibrate.
Yandiswa, who was told she could be anything she wanted and believed it, chose education because it’s fundamental in shaping society. If she didn’t hold her current position, she would still be involved with parents and their children, teens especially, who she feels are often misunderstood. She’s always pushed herself to try new things, even if she was terrible and enjoys a morning or afternoon jog.