Benoni High School in the South African province of Gauteng is rightly proud of its outstanding academic programme and unrivalled array of extramural activities, which are currently available to 1,600 secondary school pupils. Following another year of exceptional results, the school is continuing to develop and expand. A new pavilion has been constructed, a welcome addition to already excellent existing facilities, while the school is also continuing to develop its involvement in tertiary education.

Using a combination of on-site lectures and interactive distance learning, the school’s university programme will offer B Ed and B Com courses and degrees in education, as well as diploma courses in Project Management, Human Resources and Management Practices.

“Nursing is already underway and more will follow – it’s going to be a vast and very involved programme, both exciting and challenging for our youngsters,” says Principal Jake Ceronio, who hopes this will provide an opportunity for local pupils to continue their studies without having to move away from home.


On-the-job training

Another benefit of this expansion into the tertiary sector is that the teaching qualification will allow the school to train its own staff. “We will have an intern scheme where we offer bursaries to aspirant teachers,” says Ceronio. “They study while working at the school and, as the years go on, they get more responsibility until they qualify, having taught at the school for four years. A teaching degree can be very theoretical but this takes place in the school environment, so the practical side is built in. It allows us to get the type of teacher we want, with the right ethos.”

For Ceronio, this means an acceptance of the vitality of extramural activities to the school’s offering. Benoni currently has around two dozen extramural programmes, in everything from sport to public speaking. The rugby academy is particularly strong, while the pipe band won the World Pipe Band Championships in 2009 and the school’s athletic team regularly enjoys considerable success in national competition. Pupils are not enticed to the school by the provision of bursaries in these activities, but instead all children are encouraged to find something that suits their skills.


Engaged students

Ceronio feels that extracurricular activity is essential to the school’s success. “We believe participation is very important,” he says. “We promote sport because we believe children that are involved in the extramural programme are also involved in the academic programme, they are not sidelined and the school becomes more important to them. And, if they are good, they will get the opportunity for bursaries in tertiary education, particularly if they excel both academically and in sport.”

Looking ahead, Benoni High School will expand its tertiary programme while maintaining exceptional academic standards. “We are the school of choice in our area with a very strong academic history. Once again, we got a 100 per cent pass rate this year – that must be about 40 years of no failures,” says Ceronio. “We hope that the tertiary part of the school will continue to expand. We project that it will grow and we are looking for permanent premises. The fact we are now giving our students and others the opportunity to study locally means our young people can further their studies with courses of a very high standard.”