Province’s top scorers awarded

Nikita Heneke with father Brian and mother Norma.

Premier Helen Zille and the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) last week celebrated the 2016 matriculants who achieved the top marks as well as schools that achieved outstanding results for the National Senior Certificate exams.

The annual awards was held at the premier’s Leeuwenhof residence on Thursday January 12.

Education MEC Debbie Schäfer thanked the matriculants as well as the teachers for working hard to increase the province’s pass rate from 84.7 percent in 2015 to 86 percent in 2016.

“We pay tribute to the stars in our province who have done so well in the matric 2016 examinations, and who are lighting the way for other provinces, as well as in communities that experience many difficulties. These people are showing that nothing is impossible, even if you have difficulties to confront.

“Thanks to the efforts of our head office staff, our district
directors and their staff, our principals and teachers, parents
and, of course, our learners, the class of 2016 has once again made this province very proud,” she said.

She said even though the province has dropped in the national rankings from number 1 to number 2, behind Bloemfontein, pupils and WCED staff have “Much to be proud of”.

“We have always maintained that indicators of quality go well beyond the overall pass rate. We focus on quality of passes, and retention of as many learners as possible in the school system, so that we can ensure the best possible opportunities for our young people in the Western Cape,” said Ms Schäfer.

The province is also the only one with a Bachelor’s pass rate of 40% or more.

Ms Schäfer acknowledged the top three pupils in the country; Conrad Strydom from Hermanus High School, Christine Vivier from De Kuilen High School and Hannah Clayton from Rustenburg Girls’ High.

The Ministerial Award was given to Miche Gertse from Bernadino Heights High School who obtained two distinctions and a university exemption.

Miche was diagnosed with bone cancer when she was in Grade 5 and relapsed several times through-
out her schooling career when the cancer spread to her lung and
arm.

In her matric year she had a blood clot in her right leg and had severe pain but persevered to pass and exceeded expectation.

Tawanda Mutasa from Pioneer School in Worcester also received an award for excellence despite
barriers to learning. Tawanda is
visually impaired and obtained
the highest marks in six sub-
jects.

The MEC acknowledged that there are still many disparities that exist between schools in rich and poor communities.

“I was thus particularly pleased that, once again, all eight of our districts achieved over 80% pass rate. In addition, every quintile increased their pass percentage yet again,” she said.

South Peninsula High School pupil Nikita Heneke from Retreat was invited to the prestigious awards ceremony after obtaining eight distinctions, including As in pure maths, physical sciences, life sciences and accounting.

A proud Nikita said anyone can achieve top marks if they work
hard.

“I got a bursary to attend South Peninsula and I knew I had to work hard to get a good mark. I knew
what I wanted to achieve in terms of my marks and I had a goal – that was my motivation,” she said.

Nikita will be studying medicine at Stellenbosch University.

South Peninsula High School had a 98 percent pass rate and 82 percent Bachelor’s passes for 2016 – 18 pupils achieved A-passes, 34 achieved B-passes and 71 achieved C-passes.

Ms Zille said it is critical to assess the pass rate alongside the retention rate, which is the ratio of pupils who stay in the system and do not drop out. The Western Cape had the highest retention rate in the country at 64.13%.

“It is easy to improve pass rates by allowing learners to drop out of the system. It is much more difficult to encourage kids to stay in school, to come early, stay late, or take Saturday classes. Our pass rate, and our retention rate is up – a critical combination for good, credible progress in quality education.”

“There is no doubt that we are on the right path. Back in 2009 it was unthinkable to hear of five or six distinctions achieved in disadvantaged schools. It is happening now, not because the standards are dropping – believe me, we competency test all matric markers. It’s happening because quality is improving. To the learners – you are the pathbreakers, the bright shining stars that are the beacon of inspiration for everybody else,” said Ms Zille.

She also referred to the province’s education programmes.

“The WCED is working hard to land our eLearning game changer, ramping up this programme to ensure that the digital divide is not something that affects children
in our schools. We are running further game-changers focusing
on quality after-school programming, and linking young people
to critical skills training,” said Ms Zille.