Pass rate takes off after church steps in to help

Thulani Gqirana and Lee-Anne Butler

WHEN St Stephen’s Church in Port Elizabeth’s New Brighton township responded to the crisis in education by adopting nearby Cowan High School, little did they know that their joint efforts would lead to the ailing school almost doubling its pass rate.

Cowan’s 75% pass rate was celebrated at St Stephen’s Anglican Church’s annual education service yesterday.

The pass rate was just 38% when St Stephen’s got involved in 2010.

The packed church was addressed by former Gauteng education MEC outspoken Professor Mary Metcalfe, who said she was impressed with the partnership between the church and school, both of which had had a proud history in the New Brighton community since the 1940s.

“It is so exciting to witness the relationship between the school and church.

“The community here should be very proud of the achievements of the learners who have done so well.”

Metcalfe said she understood that education was a huge concern for the people of New Brighton and for Port Elizabeth as a whole.

“We can all see that we are not where we should be and we still have a long way to go. We cannot be the society we want to be without improving our education. Good quality education should be available to all.”

She said that more children in the Eastern Cape did not complete their schooling than in any other province. Despite Metcalfe’s thought- provoking words, congregants did not let the opportunity for celebration pass. The vibrant churchgoers sang and gave loud praise for the pupils’ achievements.

Cowan High School principal Trevor Dolley said the school had flourished since the partnership began.

St Stephen’s Anglican Church’s Archdeacon Zweli Tom, who led the service, said the church wanted to make a difference to a nearby school.

“We felt called by God to adopt Cowan High School in 2010, and since then the partnership has flourished. Every year, we have an educational Sunday service to celebrate the school’s achievements.

“The year we started the partnership, the school had a 38% pass rate, the next year it was 48%, in 2012 it was 73% and last year 75.44% – great achievements.”

Tom said that the standard of the results was also worth celebrating.

“We now have more Bs and Ds than anything else.”

As a result of the partnership, the church also started a scholarship to send a needy pupil identified by the school to university. Babalwa Mpolongwana was the deserving recipient yesterday.

Dolley said the partnership, which was the brainchild of Reverend Tom, was formed on biblical principles.

“The main aim is to reignite and rejuvenate the moral fibre of our community.

“When the partnership … was formed, we thought it was a great idea to have support from the pulpit to turn things around in our school and society, and we are doing it.”

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