Lavender Hill High School’s T-shirt campaign is a big YES for learner retention.

The T-shirt campaign at Lavender Hill is gaining momentum. Last year the school launched the humble T-shirt, emblazoned with positive messages as a physical, visual symbol to fight the high drop out rate of learners. Then, only the new Grade 8 recruits received their T-shirts and only a few staff members, the learners’ parents and many guests were present at the launch. This year was different. Lavender Hill High has decided to fasttrack the T-shirt campaign by involving all the learners from Grade 8 to Grade 12. This time the entire staff was witness to the T-shirt handover, together with the 1000+ learner population, sponsors and guests. Parents were there as well, of course. This was powerful stuff. The learners displayed a quiet confidence and excitement as they sat in the quadrangle – their makeshift ‘hall’ for assemblies. The heat beat down and I am sure the hard tarmac was uncomfortable, but there they sat, allowing us to take in this visual of  youth resilience. When the learners performed the Mexican wave , the blue and white T-shirts formed a wave of hope and triumph moving to and fro – from the Grade 8’s and down the tarmac to the Grade 12’s and back again. Whoo… hoop… we join in…

The Lavender Hill learners proudly showing off their T-shirts
Clockwise from Top: Metro South District Director, Glen van Harte, Chaeli from the Chaeli Campaign, DCAS learners singing and Jackie, Grade 8 Head, also programme director on the day.
Making our shoulders available
Lavender Hill has found some magic in the hard process of changing mindsets and behaviour of the vulnerable community.  The drab and monotonous architecture of the Lavender Hill landscape belies this ongoing struggle to succeed against all odds. There is a spirit of resilience alive in this area. I see this at the Primary schools in the area and in the attitude of the many helping hands working tirelessly to build a community of hope.  People push back harder if they have support. This is just how we are wired. We are communal beings and thrive on standing on the shoulder of giants. 
Top: June Orsmond, the tireless campaigner of the YES programme at Lavender Hill. Bottom: Faseeg Manie, Principal of Lavender Hill High School.

Lavender Hill trendsetting for the Lavender Hill belt at large?
This may be a tough call but Lavender Hill High school has to allow the siblings of their learners – most at the neighbouring primary schools – to stand on their shoulders. Somehow the T-shirt campaign should become a community inclusive campaign. Imagine the multiplier effect if the primary schools participate in this symbolic act as well. Imagine having one common language to push back, to arrest the drop out rate even at primary school. The scene is set already because the same parents and the same neighbours are linked to both high school and primary schools. 
It would be an amazing feat if we can break down the fences between the schools – fences that may perhaps slow down the impact of the T-shirt learner retention campaign in the Lavender Hill belt. 

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