Khayelitsha school’s success shines like a ‘beacon of possibility’

Education update [Edition 15]- March 2013

No excuses, just success. These words, written in big bold letters on a wall in the foyer of the Centre of Science and Technology (COSAT) in Khayelitsha, captures the ethos of the school and provides some insight into their academic achievements.

COSAT achieved ninth position in the top ten schools in the province based on their 100% pass rate in the 2011 National Senior Certificate exams, 79% of its 2011 candidates obtaining access to Bachelor degree studies and 98.6% passing Mathematics.
Premier Helen Zille announced the awards, saying: “This is a historic moment for the Western Cape. For the first time ever, a school in one of the most disadvantaged parts of South Africa is one of our top ten schools in the province. It’s the first ever township school to make the top ten purely on merit.”
Zille paid tribute to Cassie Kruger, CEO of the Falsebay College, and his colleagues for their vision in starting the programme and persuading her to support it. COSAT was established in 1999 as a Grade 10-12 school programme at the FET College.
Kruger said his role was mainly that of creating an environment in which COSAT could flourish.
After the Department of Education was split into two ministries in 2009, the decision was made in collaboration with the Head of Education Penny Vinjevold and the Western Cape Education Minister Donald Grant to establish COSAT as a school in its own right as from 1 January 2011.
In an article in her weekly online newsletter, SA Today, Zille ascribed COSAT’s success to talented, hard-working students, dedicated teachers, an extensive after-hours support programme, performance monitoring through regular report cards, a culture of encouragement and recognition for hard work.
She said while learners at COSAT were selected based on their aptitude for maths and science and they had access to first class facilities, it did not guarantee top results if an ethos of hard work and learning was absent. “Committed and competent teachers are the crucial ingredient in excellent education.”
Phadiela Cooper, the principal, said she was especially proud of the learners because she knew how much work they had to put in and the tough circumstances many of them faced at home. “We start by working on the new learners’ attitude and impress upon them the importance of values like respect and honesty. The learners know they have to work hard and that there will be consequences if they disregard the school rules.”
Cooper said while strict, their approach was not confrontational. “We take an interest in the individual child and try to implement programmes which make learning fun.”
The school hosted regular Choc Award ceremonies to celebrate learner achievement. “We give the learners seven progress reports during the year and after each assessment the top four learners in each grade are awarded with a chocolate.”
COSAT is a no-fee school and Cooper said they would not be able to maintain the high standards without the help of an NGO, The Science Education Resources Initiative (SERI).
SERI raises funds for and manages enrichment activities and programmes at COSAT and provides academic and pastoral support to the COSAT learners. Learners have access to counseling and some receive travel and food allowances and a uniform subsidy.

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