Cape Town - 140406 - Pupils at Lavender Hill High School have been divided into houses and received T-shirts according to their house colours yesterday. The T-shirts are one of many initiatives which have helped to turn the school around. Reporter: Ilse Fredericks Picture: David Ritchie

Cape Town - They used to battle with a drop-out rate of up to 70 percent, but a change in mindset has not only increased the retention rate at Lavender Hill High School but has also improved the morale of pupils.

In 2010 only 43 pupils passed matric, but the number has increased every year since, with 60 matriculating last year and achieving a pass rate of 83.3 percent.

This year the school has a matric class of 126 pupils.

Principal Faseeg Manie said that to help address the “alarming” drop-out rate, the school started a T-shirt campaign two years ago.

Every Grade 8 pupil in 2012 received a T-shirt on which was printed: “I am a 2016 LHHS matriculant.”

“It was about what the T-shirt symbolises. We wanted to inspire our children to do better. We wanted them to see themselves in matric in 2016 and think of what’s beyond that.”

And the initiative appears to be bearing fruit.

“We used to see about 100 pupils dropping out between Grade 8 and Grade 10. So far only 50 of the pupils who started Grade 8 in 2012 have dropped out.”

The school has extended the T-shirt campaign this year, but with a few changes.

For the first time, all pupils have been divided into “houses” and received T-shirts according to their house colours.

Each has the words “I am an achiever” printed on it.

Manie said while children in the area were under pressure to belong to gangs, the school hoped the houses would offer them an alternative.

The houses would compete against one another in athletics, academics, behaviour and other categories.

Manie said the T-shirt campaign was only one of many initiatives the school had introduced as part of its Youth Empowerment Through School project.

The school has a gym where pupils can train after school, and it offers after-school and homework classes, sports fields and a library.

“This year for the first time we’ve had a waiting list of pupils trying to get into the school.

“People have heard that there are positive things happening at the school and they want their children to go to our school.”

Manie said more positive changes were on the cards.

The school would be getting a hall this year, a bullet deflective fence was being erected, while the Department of Public Works was also doing an infrastructure upgrade.

“It may sound simple, but all of this makes a difference. Without a hall we hardly have assembly during winter because we can’t let the children stand in the rain. And the fence will help to keep our children and teachers safe, which is one of our main priorities.”

Manie said while the school was turning the tide, it still had a long way to go.

“We have decided that we won’t be resting on our laurels.

“One of the next things we want to improve on is the quality of our matric passes. We want to see more learners go to university.”

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Cape Argus