A local school went from an 84% matric pass rate to the lowest ranked school in the province in the space of three years.
Crystal Senior Secondary School in Hanover Park had an 84% pass rate in 2005, 64% in 2006, and then dropped to a 31% pass rate in the 2007 exams.
Of the 104 learners who wrote the final exam, only 31 passed - none with endorsements, merits or distinctions.
"As the head of this institution, I take full responsibility for the poor results, and I apologise to the learners, parents and the community," says the school's principal, Dino Abrahams.
He says that while there were many contributing factors, the school cannot pin-point just one as the reason, and he refuses "to play the blame game".
The staff spent yesterday and today thrashing out and analysing the year, seeing where they went wrong and devising ways to address shortcomings.
"We are committed to turning this school around and producing the kind of results we know we are capable of," Abrahams says.
But Crystal High will not face this challenge alone. The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) has committed itself to helping the school get back on track.
"We are very concerned about the consistent drop in the pass rate over the last three years. We will be conducting an analysis of the situation, then do an intervention," says Gert Witbooi, spokesperson for the WCED.
"We will make sure that the learners at Crystal High get an equal opportunity to succeed, just like those at more affluent schools," Witbooi says.
But he adds that the learners, parents and community as a whole have to take ownership of the school and have the responsibility of supporting it.
"Learners must learn to value education, and the only way that will happen is if good examples are set at home," says Witbooi.
He adds that a good attitude will certainly help learners achieve success, and using poverty as an excuse will no longer pass muster.
Witbooi refers to Mountview High School as an example. The school is also situated in Hanover Park. Mountview High School had a 33% pass rate in 2006, but managed to boost that figure to 71% last year.
Principal Archie Benjamin said the list of programmes and strategies they used was endless, but the support and co-operation of the parents, learners and the WCED was of the utmost importance.
At the beginning of the year, the learners were taken on a camp where they set goals to focus themselves.
Professional motivational speakers were often called on to encourage the learners.
The teachers offered evening and Saturday classes.
Winter and spring school attendance was compulsory and in the end, it paid off. "We did all these things the previous year, and we failed. The difference was that a lot of learners had a negative attitude. Last year, they were all positive, and that made all the difference," Benjamin says.
Witbooi says the WCED will look at how Mountview High School achieved its results, and try and implement similar initiatives at Crystal High School.
Meanwhile, Abrahams is hopeful about the year that lies ahead. "The lower you fall, the higher you will rise," he concludes.
The learners who failed last year will be given a second chance.
The Western Cape Education Department will host Saturday schools at 60 centres across the Cape, where learners can prepare for the upcoming supplementary exams in May and June. Candidates who qualify for writing supplementary examinations must register before 31 January.
Those wishing to participate in the Saturday tutorial programme must register at one of the 30 venues on Saturday, 26 January for a maximum of three subjects.
The closest centre for the Lansdowne area is Belgravia High School in Athlone.