The Eastridge school achieved a 100% pass rate; with 36 (70%) of their 52 matriculants achieving bachelor passes; and the rest diploma passes in the National Senior Certificate examination.
To qualify for a bachelor pass the pupil must pass six of the seven subjects offered, score 50% in four of the subjects – including at least 40% for home language, which is compulsory to pass, but excluding life orientation and a minimum 30% pass in the language of instruction.
A diploma pass means pupils qualify to study towards a Diploma Course at a tertiary institution.
This is the school’s second 100% pass rate since it was established in 1992. The first was in 2017.
Principal Sheikh Ebrahim Dawood said their main focus was to ensure that no child was left behind.
“It was quite a tough year considering the circumstances (national Covid-19 lockdown) and the environment (poverty), where these kids come from,” he said.
The independent school charges minimal school fees, receives a stipend from the Western Cape Education and is dependent on donors to make ends meet annually.
“They did exceptionally well by achieving 100 percent for English, Afrikaans, Arabic, religion studies, business studies, tourism, life orientation – almost all of our subjects – except 89.5% for mathematics and 80% physical science,” said Sheikh Dawood.
Weeks before the national Covid-19 lockdown teachers had prepared work packs, which pupils could complete at home.
Pupils were put on WhatsApp classroom groups and given a timetable.
“When we realised that this was not too stable we instituted Google classroom but we found that pupils were struggling because they either did not have data or a device,” he said.
On return to school in June, the pupils were assessed academically and much of the work had to be retaught.
“We had a catch up programme and paid visits to their homes.
“It was a struggle. Parents had lost their jobs and we organised food parcels and a stipend for about three months, particularly to those who were struggling to pay school fees.
“These visits gave us an eye into their homes and we could best assist, knowing what was needed,” he said.
These were regular visits to pupils’ homes by the school board members and staff to ensure no one was in need.
In June last year they started the Darul Arqam Zakaah and Relief Fund to assist pupils.
Sheikh Dawood said they were not sure whether all of their matriculants had a meal to eat every day and so they started serving snacks daily.
“We extended our school day for pupils whose homes were not conducive for studying. We’d have Friday afternoon and Saturday classes. The pupils would only have Sunday off,” he said.
Teachers became foster parents to a small group of matriculants, to ensure their holistic well-being.
“Some pupils would stay in their teachers’ home. We tried to assist in whichever way they needed our support,” he said.
The school also started a nutrition programme for the community, every Thursday, with the pupils preparing sandwiches on a Tuesday.
He said more than half of the matric class needed assistance and to prevent discrimination or the pupils being embarrassed they availed meals to everyone.
“The kids were committed. The teachers were hardworking. We had a very visionary and supportive board. We had pupils, who had lost parents.
“This of course was very traumatic for the pupils and we had to call in education psychologists to get over these hurdles,” he said.
Three board members – Ebrahim Croy, chairman Meiraaj Jacobs and Rasheemah Zoutenberg – died during the pandemic.
Top pupil Alfred Bere, who was in Johannesburg on holiday will remain there to possibly study Bachelor of Science (BSc) Mathematics of Finance at Wits university. He also has the option to study Johannesburg University.
Four distinctions and three Bs.
The Zimbabwean born pupil, who moved to Cape Town in 2019 started at the Eastridge school in Grade 11, where his aunt Duniya Bere, from Parow, taught.
Alfred, who achieved four distinctions and three B symbols, said: “I’m grateful for my results. I do wish those Bs would turn into As though.”
He said the school fit in with his world view of wanting to better understand other cultures.
“Darul Arqam is a unique place of learning both culturally and academically.
“The teachers engage and are willing to help pupils, which I have not found anywhere else before. I loved it there,” he said.
Deputy headboy Aadam Cader, 19, from Portland, said pupils did not focus on their individual academic results but rather on everyone in the matric class passing.
“We worked as a team. It was a team effort, us as classmates and the teachers,” he said.
He intends on studying civil engineering at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT).
Aadam said they spent more time at school than at home during their final year.
He and classmate Zakariya Kamaar, 19, from Eastridge, were the first graduates of the Darul Arqam Hifth Academy in December 2016. The programme allows pupils to complete their memorisation of the Qur’an and attend to their academics.