Alexander Johannes, Gauteng’s topachiever, with former principal Tony Reeler. Some of South Africa’s top achievers. MEC Barbara Creecy (middle) said theirturnaround programme worked. Parents jubilant for their children’s results.(Images: Bongani Nkosi)MEDIA CONTACTS• Charles PhahlaneHead of CommunicationGauteng Department of Education+27 11 355 1530 or +27 71 860 4496RELATED ARTICLES• SA matrics excel despite hardships• SA matric results up by 7%• Top marks for IEB matrics• Poor schools score textbooksBongani NkosiGauteng has for the first time achieved the best matric marks in the country, beating the long-time results champion, the Western Cape.Schools in the inland province achieved a 78.6% pass rate for 2010, a 6.8% increase from 2009.But the Western Cape didn’t do too badly either: it accomplished a 76.8% pass rate, up from 75.7% in 2009. It had the highest pass rate after Gauteng.Gauteng’s results victory has earned the province much praise.“For the first time ever, Gauteng is the top-performing province in the country. We do indeed have a great deal to celebrate,” said Gauteng Education MEC Barbara Creecy.“This [78.6% pass rate] means that we are only 1.4% short of our 2014 target of an 80% pass rate.”Creecy announced the province’s results on 6 January 2011 at Wits University, where she was joined by the top matriculants and their parents. The youngsters were honoured with certificates of recognition and bursaries.The students, who will soon enrol at universities, scored several distinctions each and are eligible to register for bachelor degrees of their choice. They have all been awarded bursaries worth R40 000 (US$6000) by the provincial government.Some 43% of matriculants in Gauteng obtained a university entrance pass.Alexander Gerhard Johannes from Pretoria Boys High School is Gauteng’s top achiever – he notched up nine distinctions for his final exams.Pupils at state schools across the country have been applauded for their efforts – especially in light of last year’s teachers’ strike and the Fifa World Cup. All schools were closed for the month-long tournament, and this took away valuable learning time.“Despite all the difficulties, these young people really came to the party,” said Creecy.Gauteng owes much of its success to the Secondary Schools Improvement Programme (SSIP), which was implemented at the beginning of 2010. The programme targeted 276 underperforming schools in the province and gave them more attention and resources.“We identified those schools that were underperforming and gave them more time and invested in them,” said Creecy.Mosupatsela Secondary School, one the beneficiaries of the programme, turned out one of the province’s top performers, Neo Modimokwane.Modimokwane obtained four distinctions in accounting, economics, mathematics and business studies.Her school was one of the top five achievers in the programme with an 85% pass rate. Inqayizivele Secondary School was the overall champion with 94.8% of matriculants passing.The others are Lethukuthula Secondary with 88%, Zitikeni Secondary with 81% and Lesiba Secondary School, which achieved a pass rate of 75%.More than 200 of the schools in the programme improved their results. “This programme involved extra classes on Saturdays starting from the second term in April, during the World Cup and during the September holidays,” said Creecy.“The classes were expanded into a catch-up and exam preparation programme after the strike.”Although not part of the SSIP, Beverly Hills, another Gauteng school, grew its 2009 pass average of 55.1% to 86.9%.About 300 schools will be involved in the programme in 2011. Now that the provincial government is confident about the performance of 60 schools that were part of the initial SSIP, they will no longer be part of the scheme.Pretoria schools shineAs in previous years, schools from Pretoria performed well in 2010. Students there scored the top marks in Gauteng.Pretoria Boys High School is one of a number of schools in the province that achieved a 100% pass rate. Principal Tony Reeler is proud of his school, attributing its success to a good work ethic.“There’s no magic ingredient. It’s only hard work, there’s no substitute for hard work,” Reeler said.The school has improved on its previous pass rate of 99.7% and has set a benchmark, which it aims to reach every year from now on.“If a child gets to matric, I don’t see a reason why that child should not pass,” said Reeler.The overall pass rate in South Africa was 67.8%, the national Department of Basic Education announced. Results have improved significantly across all nine provinces.