Throughout last year Lavender Hill and the surrounding areas were plagued by gang war which resulted in sporadic shootings and several people, including children, shot and killed.
The shootings took place throughout the day, especially in the morning and afternoon when pupils were on their way to and from school.
The situation was so dire that parents refused to send their children to school and teachers feared for their lives and those of their pupils.
In May last year, Prince George, Levana and Hillwood primary schools and Lavender Hill High School were brought to a complete standstill because of the gang warfare. Parents and school governing bodies locked the gates of the schools calling for intervention by police and the Western Cape Education Department (WCED).
The schools were also closed on Monday May 29 and Tuesday May 30.
Lavender Hill High pupils were moved to Kuils River CTLI Centre to write their June exams as their school and homes were not conducive learning environments.
In 2015, Lavender Hill High School achieved a pass rate of 83.8% but it decreased significantly in 2016 to 68.8%.
Principal Faseeg Manie said having to duck and dive bullets when coming to school and going back home affects the pupils’ academic performance.
Their 2017 matric pass rate, however, increased significantly to 88.6% – an increase of just under 20%.
Mr Manie said he is proud of the school’s pass rate considering the year of challenges they faced.
“I can hardly believe it, given the background of the school, our socio-economic context and particularly the violence that was particularly bad last year,” he said.
Mr Manie recalls when pupils had to write exams off-site, saying it’s the first time in the school’s history something like that happened.
“This is an absolutely remarkable inspirational tale that our school did so well and it’s something that should be celebrated. Often we hear the bad things about Lavender Hill but this shows that there are a lot more positive things in Lavender Hill than negatives,” he said.
Another one of those positive stories came from the school’s head boy Michael Dyson from Hillview.
Despite all the challenges he has faced in his young life, with the support of the school and an unconquerable spirit, he is on his way to a successful future.
“I lost my father when I was five and my family fell apart. I became very aggressive but eventually realised that I need to become a responsible young man,” he said.
Living with his mother and siblings in a structure in his grandmother’s backyard, things took a turn for the worst about two years ago when his grandmother died.
“When my grandmother died the electricity and water to the house was cut and up until this day there’s no electricity and running water. I used to study by candlelight and an oil lamp but it was hard because of the fumes of the paraffin and the safety hazard,” said Michael.
Mr Manie bought the young man a portable rechargeable light that he could charge at the school in order for him to study at night.
“Thanks to that light I passed my matric. The school gave me a chance, among all the adversities and gang violence I conquered and finished my matric year successfully,” he said.
Michael hopes to become an inspirational speaker with NPO Learning in Reach.
“I want to be a life coach. I’m hoping my story can inspire others to let their light shine despite all the darkness,” he said.
Mr Manie commended theWCED, teachers, pupils and parents for their hard work.
Other schools in the Southern Mail distribution area also did well although most pass rates took a dip.
Christel House Academy went from 100% last year to 97.8%. Crestway High School went from 71.2% to 69.3%, Fairmount High from 95.5% to 89.6%, Grassdale High from 94.1% to 91.2%, Grassy Park High from 91% to 77.2%, Immaculata High from 95% to 93.7%, Lotus River High from 75.7% to 57.7%, Pelican Park High from 96.9% to 88.3%, Sibelius High from 89.2% to 67.3%,
Steenberg High from 96% to 85.1%, Wynberg High from 94% to 93.6% and Zeekoevlei High from 98.3% to 85.7%.
Heathfield High School held their 75.2% pass rate from last year and Wittebome High increased their pass rate slightly from 84.1% in 2016 to 85.6% in 2017.