Spine Road High Achieves 99% Matric Pass Rate and Lessons from Legendary Principal Najaar

Riyaadh Najaar

Spine Road High has continued to impress with its 99% matric pass rate, an improvement from the previous year’s 98%.

This is, however, not the highest pass rate that it has achieved.

In 2015, under the leadership of the then principal, Riyaadh Najaar, the school became the first in Mitchell’s Plain to achieve a pass rate of 100%.

Two years later in 2017, Principal Najaar retired and ended his career by leading his school to another pass rate of 100%.

Principal Najaar’s then deputy, Mark Fairbairn, took over as principal in 2018 and continues to build on the remarkable legacy of his former boss.

Given that Principal Fairbairn managed a 99% pass rate, it is fairly certain that Principal Najaar’s legacy is in safe hands and will continue to inspire.

However, what lessons can be learnt from the legendary man that is Principal Najaar.

The school has not always been a beacon of pride and it took years of dedication to build it into what it is today.

When Principal Najaar took over, he had to eliminate the school’s drug problem, improve the quality of teaching and improve the morale among both learners and teachers.

He suggests that the key ingredients to achieving a 100% pass rate are teachers who love their jobs and who are technically proficient in their subject of choice.

A teacher who does not love their job becomes stressed out easily and if they do not possess perfect knowledge of their subject, it will have a negative impact on learners for years to come.

He is however not ignorant of the fact that his learners came from communities where the trauma of violence and drug use is a daily reality; and that remedying this would be a challenge in itself.

His solution was to build the confidence of the learners, instilling in them a sense of pride and dignity, and drilling into them the idea that they are solely responsible for the choices they make.

He never allowed them an opportunity to blame their parents, the teachers, the government or the community they came from.

It was either the case that they chose to succeed or chose to fail.

He then set performance targets, one of which was an ambitious 100% pass rate.

It took him nearly ten years but he eventually achieved this target and Spine Road became the first township school in the Western Cape to achieve a 100% pass rate.

The key to his success was being patient, working hard, getting the right teachers and believing in the potential of both his learners and staff.

Because of this, he took a school with no resources and class sizes of 40 learners per classroom, and achieved the level of success that you would expect from an expensive private school.

What Principal Najaar proves is that township schools have the potential to perform far above what is expected of them.

With a committed leader at the helm, any school can be lifted from the ashes and turned into a phoenix.

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