THEY have spent the past few days at Sumcay camping centre, a popular facility near Despatch. But this has been no holiday for a group of Booysen Park Senior Secondary School matriculants determined to take up an offer from a Nelson Mandela Bay company to pay for their tertiary education.
Instead of enjoying the mid- year school break like most other pupils they have been attending winter school, intent on improving on last year’s 85.4% pass rate, which was up from 42.8% the previous year.
"These bright young minds will bear testimony that you can succeed despite difficult circumstances. They are determined to get that 100% pass rate,” school principal Elroy Bosman said yesterday.
The school’s amazing matric result turnabout was highlighted in The Herald earlier this year. Since then, Coca-Cola Fortune has stepped in and offered bursaries for degrees or national diplomas to all 32 matriculants on condition they pass and are accepted to tertiary institutions.
Matric teacher Schamelle Sauls said pupils had been working non-stop since the first school bell rang in January.
At the start of the school holidays two weeks ago, matriculants had attended extra classes in Afrikaans, geography, accounting, life sciences and mathematics from 9am till noon.
On Monday, they again demonstrated their commitment by going to the winter school, where they attend lessons from 9am until 5.30pm every day.
The camp was made possible by the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, which is sponsoring pupils’ meals and accommodation.
"These pupils realise the importance of being here. They understand that they are doing this for themselves and to better their futures. The promised bursaries are an added driving force,” Sauls said.
"90% of the pupils do not have adequate facilities to study at home and in some instances there is little motivation on the home front, so the camp is ideal.”
Emile Slater, 18, said he had attended the camp as it was too challenging to study at home.
"In order to be successful in life, one has to make sacrifices. I will gladly sacrifice my holiday if it means ensuring my future success,” he said. "We have been working hard. The camp is giving us the drive and the fuel we need to carry on.”
Callie St Clair-Marks, 18, said: "The preparation we are doing here is vital. Every minute of the time here is going to be worth it.”
Bosman said dedicated teachers who sacrificed time away from their own families without ever complaining were pivotal to the pupils’ success.
Teachers regularly visit the homes of every matriculant to assess their circumstances.
Bosman said most people would be shocked to find out the extent of the hardships pupils had to endure at home.
"When the third term starts, we will do an individual analysis of each matriculant based on their June exam results.
"From this, we will see where their strengths are and where they need help,” he said.
"The kids are not going to slack. Not on our watch.”
The top 30 Grade 11 pupils have been attending a range of life skills programmes at the winter school as a way of encouraging them for next year.