Cape Town - 140107 - MEC Donald Grant visit Intlanganiso Secondary School in Khayelitsha this morning to congratulate the matrics on their final marks and give some advice for the future. Pictured: Students celebrate various statistics that they achieve as a year group. REPORTER: WARREN FORTUNE. PICTURE: WILLEM LAW.

Cape Town - Even in the face of dire circumstances such as gang violence disrupting classes, dedicated school communities have been able to improve their results, says Education MEC Donald Grant.

On Tuesday, Grant visited several schools and district offices to offer congratulations on their matric results. His four-stop trip included two schools, Silverstream High School in Manenberg and Intlanganiso Secondary School in Khayelitsha.

Grant acknowledged the good performance of matrics in Manenberg schools in the wake of what he said had been a difficult year for education in the area, with gang-related violence disrupting classes during August.

He noted in particular the achievements of Silverstream High School, which had more than doubled its pass rate from 34.2 percent in 2012 to 69.1 percent.

“We had trouble in the Manenberg area last year so they have reason to acknowledge themselves,” Grant said.

“It was a team effort between teachers, pupils and the district office. It gives us a sign of hope that even in dire circumstances, they can turn things around.”

Acting principal Leslie Pieters expressed his delight at the results. “I’m ecstatic. If we can sustain this, it will benefit the community,” he said.

He said there had been instability during three of the four school terms last year.

“In term one, there was the transport issue with the strikes. In term two, there was gangster activity in the school, and in term three, there was gang fighting outside of the school.”

Pieters said the improved pass rate could not have been achieved without the hard work of all involved, including officials at the provincial education department.

“Learners attended weekend classes and classes during the spring holiday. There are also those from the district office who helped with the curriculum and they need to be acknowledged as well.”

Grant also congratulated teachers and pupils at Intlanganiso Secondary School in Khayelitsha’s Site C, which recorded a 94.1 percent pass rate – well up from 69.6 percent in 2012.

Principal Tshemese Mntuwekhaya said there was still room for improvement and that he wanted his school to rival other top performing schools in the province.

“The challenge for us is to benchmark ourselves against top schools like Westerford. If you set realistic targets, then our percentage must be up by 5 percent next year, which means in 2014 we must have a 99 percent pass rate – which is achievable,” he said.

The school’s top performer was 17-year-old Chumisa Matiwane, who passed with five distinctions in what had been a difficult year for her as her mother died in March.

Matiwane, who wants to study accounting or law, said her competitive personality had helped her reach the top.

“I’m very competitive, so I’m used to being in the top 10. I also have a lot of opinions and people say I talk a lot,” she said.

Matiwane revealed some of the secrets of her success to this year’s new matrics. ”They must study and work hard and build close relationships with their teachers. They should not let anyone put them down.”

Her school was one of 21 in Khayelitsha that collectively improved their pass rate from 53.6 percent in 2009 to 74.2 percent in 2013.

Grant said that since 2009, the number of successful matric pupils here had increased by nearly 1 000, from 1 538 candidates to 2 521.

The Metro South District of the province had the biggest improvement in terms of the percentage of passes: 83 percent compared to 78 percent last year.

All eight education districts in the Western Cape achieved pass rates above 80 percent.

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Cape Argus