Impoverished northern areas school doubles pass rate to amazing 85.4%

Lynn Williams

A SCHOOL in one of Nelson Mandela Bay’s poorest areas overcame tough odds to double its matric pass rate to an amazing 85.4% from a dismal 42.8% last year.

Most of the classrooms at the Booysen Park Senior Secondary School in Port Elizabeth’s northern areas are dilapidated, with broken desks and windows.

The school has no electricity and lacks the most basic resources.

But prayer, determination, courage, a hunger to succeed and sheer willpower drove the principal, teachers and pupils to achieve the dramatic turnaround this year.

To add to the school’s woes, a fire in 2003 gutted eight classrooms.

But it was the shockingly low pass rate of 2010 which finally brought principal Elroy Bosman to tears.

For him, it was the final straw in four years of under-performance.

A couple of weeks later, former education MEC Mahlubandile Qwase demanded to know from Bosman what he planned to do about the consistently poor results.

“I vowed if my school under-performed again, I would quit and never return,” Bosman said yesterday.

“I told him my school was going to achieve a pass rate of more than 80%.

“As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I was shocked. I could not believe I had said that.”

But it was this resolve that sent Bosman back to the drawing board and set in motion a sequence of events which led the school to great heights.

“I got my staff on board,” Bosman said. “We outlined our challenges and ways to overcome them. We analysed where we had made mistakes.

“The department is quick to tell us to look at what Model C schools are doing to achieve success – but I realised this was Booysen Park and Booysen Park had its own challenges. When the first school bell rang in January 2011, pupils were told their social circumstances would not be used as an excuse to justify their failures.”

The teachers also visited the homes of every matriculant to assess their circumstances.

“It broke my heart to see how some of our pupils lived,” Bosman said.

“We heard and saw things that you could not even begin to comprehend.

“Some pupils lived in one-room shacks they shared with five others, while others did not have any food to eat or a place to study. This drove us even more to assist our pupils.”

Soon teachers were working long hours, six days a week, giving extra classes and staying at the school at night to hold study groups.

Saturdays became “school days” and teachers doubled up as social workers and counsellors.

They even provided meals for the pupils who attended extra classes at night.

“We were motivated and driven by a hunger to see our pupils excel,” Bosman said. “They then started to pass. Our spirits were high as succeeding became contagious.

“We even managed to pull back those pupils we thought we had lost – the ones society had branded troublemakers.

“This school is never going back to a pass rate that is lower than this – never.

“By 2013, we will have a 100% pass rate. We are going to make this a model school in the northern areas.”

The pupils all sang the praises of their teachers and principal.

Akhani Mbombela, 18, said they owed their success to the commitment of their teachers. “They motivated us to do our best. When we felt like giving up, they pushed us,” she said.

“Quitting was not an option. Today, we say thank you with grateful hearts.”

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