In just three such cases, Manenberg High School’s results dropped from 73% to 47.1%, Phoenix High School from 80.4% down to 65.2%, and Spes Bona High School only managed a 42.5% pass, down from 70.1% in 2016.
Manenberg High School principal Thurston Brown said the drop in the school’s results had shocked pupils and staff.
“We were quite bowled over by the results especially because the district and school put in so much effort to provide extra resources for the pupils. We arranged extra classes and camps for them so we can’t understand what has happened,” he said.
Mr Brown said although there was gang violence in the area last year, that was not the main reason for the drastic drop in results.
“Pupils were not focused and perhaps parents are not checking up on kids to make sure that they are working at home. Work must go on after school as well but often the moment they get home they forget about school,” said Mr Brown.
He said absenteeism also contributed to the low matric pass rate.
Phoenix High School principal Shafiek Abrahams described the school’s results as “disappointing,” attributing the drop to gangsterism, crime, and the fact there were many more Grade 12 pupils last year.
“The pupils’ poor attitude also contributed as they don’t care about their education. They don’t see a future for themselves – attaining a matric certificate and getting into tertiary school and landing a good job one day so they feel discouraged. There’s nothing more that we can do at the school. Pupils need to change their attitude,” he said.
Jessica Shelver, spokeswoman for Education MEC Debbie Schafer, said the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) employed social workers in every circuit who work with officials in other departments and agencies, the individuals concerned and their families to address societal issues, including teenage pregnancy.
Ms Shelver said while the WCED was not aware of any pupils who were not able to write their matric exam due to gang violence, schools would’ve assisted pupils where possible if they were not able to sit the tests.
“District officials are currently analysing the results to determine which schools did not perform well and in which subject areas. Once the results have been analysed, we will engage with the HOD and his district directors regarding a strategy for improving the results at the end of 2018.”
She said the reasons for the drop in results vary from area to area but could be attributed, in part, to socio-economic factors such as poverty, gangsterism, substance abuse as well as an increase in class sizes.
Asked what the WCED was doing to prevent gang violence from impacting on pupils’ schooling, she said while the department has been liaising with all relevant roleplayers to address the safety of teachers and pupils, it was ultimately the police’s responsibility.
“The fact is that more police presence results in more teaching and learning, resulting in more opportunities for young and educated leaders. Gang violence is depriving our children of their educational opportunities. Without proper education many of these children themselves then become involved in gang activities and continue on this destructive cycle of violence and disruption,” said Ms Shelver.
She said in terms of policy, every school must have a safety committee responsible for implementing a safety plan.
“Our Safe Schools division works closely with schools and a range of partners to provide support to schools at risk. This support includes security systems, advice on security policies and procedures, counselling, and youth development programmes.”