’Yes, I can’ is secret to Salt River High’s matric success

Salt River High School acting principal Donavan Nicholas, left, and deputy principal, Abdurashid Ismail.

Salt River High School saw a 22% surge in its matric results, placing it among the top six best-improving schools in the province.

The school leapt from a 48.6% pass rate in 2019 to 70.8% in 2020.

Acting principal Donavan Nicholas says the school’s senior management team met at the start of the year to assess weak areas.

“We did an analysis of results, and what was established was that many of the pupils did not understand the terminology in tests.”

The school’s pupils come from 38 different areas in Cape Town and 90% don’t have English as their first language.

Mr Nicholas, who last year worked under principal Fairuz Patel, who has since retired, said they had focused on getting to grips with exam terminology and the motto for the year had been “Yes, I can.”

When Covid-19 hit, the school use bulk SMSing and WhatsApp to stay in touch with matrics. Mr Nicholas said they had also used the Western Cape Education Department’s ePortal system to source lessons.

When the pupils returned to school in June, the 71 matric pupils, who had formerly been in two classes, were split into four classes for physical distancing.

“It allowed pupils to be more vocal and active in class and smaller classes did help the pupils,” Mr Nicholas said.

The school prepared learning-resource packs to help pupils with learning at home and external tutors ran Saturday classes.

Abdurashid Ismail, the school’s deputy principal, said pupils had shown a lot of commitment.

“The pupils managed to work much harder on their own during lockdown,” he said, adding that the revision programmes and resources packs had proved their worth.

“We credit the success of the matrics to their intrinsic motivation,” said Mr Nicholas.

Salt River High School plans to push even harder this year for a better pass rate, and Mr Nicholas said the motto for this year was, “There is a solution to all your problems.”

He added: “Our first step this year was to ensure that all the Grade 11’s from last year came back.”

The school would support any pupils battling to afford uniforms, transport, stationery and other costs; matrics would get their resource packs from day one; and extra classes would be held for life sciences, geography and English, he said.

This year, external counsellors would visit the school three times a week to give matrics advice on careers, study methods and social problems, he said.

Mr Nicholas said he had an open-door policy, and he wanted matrics to know that, “In life, in order to get to success, you have to make sacrifices. Don’t let problems block you, find a solution to your problem. If you can’t, you can come to me or talk to a counsellor.”

Salt River High School has appealed to the community to help with stationery and sandwiches for the pupils. Email saltriverhigh@gmail.com to help.