Yesterday, I was invited to speak to the staff of two of our district's top performing schools in the 2013 NSC exams. The first was Worcester Gymnasium. An ex -Model C school, it sits in the heart of the town. It is renowned for generating excellent results over many years. Currently the school is the only local high school offering English as a LOLT. The pressure on the institution is enormous as more and more parents make the conscious choice of having their children schooled in English. This dynamic, coupled with its history of excellent results, has brought enormous pressure to bear on the school. Despite this, Charl Schoeman and his staff take it in-their-stride. The staffroom is a source of frenetic energy. I couldn't but soak in this positive vibe. Wonderful to experience and absorb. I am left in no doubt that a repeat performance of the 2013 result is a foregone conclusion.
The second school visit for the day was at Esselen Park Secondary school. Situated on the "anderkant-van-Durban Road", the school's in the township (impoverished) side of town. In former years, Durban Road was the proverbial dividing line between the communities of Worcester. The road remains a separator of class in spite of democracy arriving in South Africa in 1994. But such barriers are no match for dedicated educators and ambitious learners. They do not define our potential nor represent our limitations. Esselen Park Secondary produced a sterling pass rate: 96% of its Grade 12s passed with 1 in 3 of those who passed, achieving a bachelors pass. But what makes this story even more remarkable and worthy of celebrating, is the message the headmaster sent his community. John Adriaanse, the school manager, had his own child enrolled at his school. She too sat for the Grade 12 examinations in 2013. Saskia was not only the headmaster's daughter, she was also the top matriculant, achieving an average of 90% across her subjects and gaining recognition at the Premier's awards at Leeuwenhof. The breakdown of her subject results were: Afrikaans HL: 88%, English FAL: 98%, German 2AL: 98%, Life Orientation: 95%, Mathematics: 71%, Business Studies: 94%, Accounting: 87% and Economics: 98%. If this does not send a clear signal to our underprivileged communities that our schools are capable of producing learners that can hold their own on any stage, I'm not sure what will! If John's belief that his school was good enough for his own child doesn't send a clear signal that quality is available in any environment, then I'm not sure what will!
Both visits were living proof that no barrier can stand in the way of achieving excellence by a committed group of educators and dedicated learners. As Worcester Gym proclaims: "excellence is our passion".