Cape Town 130118. A handfull of Grade 8 Lavender High School pupils show off their new T-shirts they received today as part of an initiative started last year to encourage the younger pupils to finish matric. Pupils from left: Maneeb Daniels, Dale Jonathan,Rudolph Daniels, Zaheer Solomons and Ryan Smith.Reporter: Ilse Fredericks. Picture: Jason Boud

Cape Town - A simple printed T-shirt is making a big difference at a Lavender Hill school.

On Friday, every new Grade 8 pupil at Lavender Hill High School received a T-shirt with the message “I am a 2017 LHHS matriculant” printed on it.

The school hopes the initiative, started last year, will improve the school’s retention rate and encourage younger pupils who are just beginning high school to finish Grade 12.

Principal Faseeg Manie said the initiative had shown signs of success with last year’s Grade 8 pupils, the first group to have received the T-shirts.

“We had only 17 Grade 8 pupils who failed last year. In the past there would have been many more.”

The project has now been extended to include all grades.

On Friday, Grade 10 to 12 pupils received T-shirts with the words “Knowledge empowers” printed on them.

“It is not just about the wearing of the T-shirts, it’s about the symbolism,” Manie told pupils.

“It sends out a message that you are proud to be linked to Lavender Hill High School, but more than that, that you want to embrace a lifestyle that says ‘Yes’ to the positive things in life and ‘No’ to gangsterism, vandalism and a poor work ethic.”

Manie said teachers had also started to make small changes.

“It’s about a mindset change and staying positive amid the doom and gloom. “Instead of harping on the negative and making excuses, we decided to focus on positive reinforcement and building self-esteem.

“It’s one thing to have a T-shirt, but it’s still up to the wearer to change his mindset. It is for him to adopt a more responsible lifestyle.”

Manie said Lavender Hill High was starting to see how the Youth Empowerment Through School (YES) project - through which many of the extramural activities had been realised - and other initiatives were helping to turn the school around. In recent years a library and a homework centre have been established and a gym has been opened.

“We see fewer acts of vandalism, for example, and more respect for teachers,” Manie said.

Glen van Harte, director of the metropole’s south education district, said he was astounded by the efforts being made, considering the context of the school. He said although it was sometimes unsafe for pupils and teachers to come to school, teachers had decided they were not going to be defined by their grim environment.

Grade 9 pupil Siyathemba Maqabsa said the T-shirt was inspiring him to succeed.

“To me it means that I have promised myself that I’m going to be an achiever. “I will pass matric in 2016.”

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Cape Argus