Remembering Mr Petse

A tribute from Craig Paxton to Mr Petse, the principal of Dudumayo Senior Secondary School – who sadly passed away on 28 May 2015.

We grieve with Dudumayo as we all mourn the passing of a great man.

I met Mr. Petse in December 2009 when we ran our first Boot Camp at Dudumayo Senior Secondary School. Even then the brief impression was of order, efficiency and an entirely different culture of hard work and high achievement that he had clearly instilled in his staff and students. As I got to know him better over the years through our close involvement with his school, these initial impressions have been deepened and strengthened – so much so that his passing has left a large hole in our hearts. We mourn a hero that has fallen and an inspirational champion of quality education for rural children.

I feel very privileged to have interviewed Mr. Petse last year as part of my PHD research. He shared his story in an honest and inspiring way – from his own rural upbringing, his struggles and perseverance accessing tertiary education, the fear and trembling with which he took his first job at St. John’s College (and the inspiration he took from this when he eventually started his own school), and his first few years at Dudumayo where he single-handedly seemed to teach all the available subjects! Throughout his story, his dream of creating a high quality school for the children of this area – a ‘shining star’ as he called it – emerged strong and bright.

His legacy is significant, but little of it will be found in the villages here; we’re far more likely to come across one of his past pupils in the board rooms of Johannesburg or in the corridors of government in Pretoria – for if he instilled anything in his students, it was that they had the power to shape their destiny and to go places. His commitment and personal generosity in ensuring that promising students from Dudumayo were able to afford tertiary studies is well known. I was amused (but not surprised) to hear of a National Treasury official who referred to “Petse and that school somewhere Mqanduli side” in a speech to provincial government as an example of what strong leadership and good school management could achieve even in the most challenging of circumstances.

As Dudumayo tries to move on with life after Mr. Petse, the challenges will continue to be significant, but we have every confidence that his legacy will continue to inspire as they rise to meet these challenges. Our thoughts and prayers are with their staff and learners – who we trust will continue to move the school forward into greater things.


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