Spine Road High School is a standard bearer in the Mitchell's Plain community.

 Spine Road High School in Mitchell's Plain is a standard bearer  in the Mitchell's Plain community. The report card of this remarkable school belies the fact that it is situated in an impoverished area where there are all the social ills of gangsterism, unemployment and broken homes. Let's have a peek at the school's learner performance, the standard by which schools are measured.

Mr Najaar posing with three of his Grade 12s.

Academic profile of Spine Road High School

In the 2014 National Senior Certificate examination, Spine Road High School made history: they were the first school to achieve a 100% pass rate in the history of Mitchell's Plain. In the 2015 NSC Final examination 280 matriculants sat for the examination. The school achieved a 99,3% pass rate and an 80% Bachelors pass rate.

In the Systemic Test 2015, the grade 9's achieved an 84% pass rate in Mathematics and 96% in English. The national pass rate for Grade 9 Maths is about 22%.

The school attracts about 2000 applications for enrollment at Grade 8.

Mr Najaar, the principal of Spine Road High School

I visited the school and wanted to know by the principal, Mr Najaar, how they have moved their school from being one that was shunned by the community to one of the most sought after schools in the Mitchell's Plain area.  Here is a snapshot of our conversation.

 Tell us how about your school's journey to become a sought after, academic standard bearer for schools beyond the Mitchell's Plain borders.

"We needed to change the teachers' mindsets and show them what is possible. We knew we had to develop our brand and the school hall, a one-of-a kind institution, played a big role in helping us to see the amazing possibilities for our school," said Mr Najaar.

We used to be a school known as a school for gangsters. Children walked right past our school to go to other schools in Mitchell's Plain or to other schools further away. One day, I took my staff to stand on the hill (on the school grounds) and asked them to observe the school children walking home from the various schools.

 We asked ourselves what we were not doing that children were prepared to travel far distances to attend other schools.  Then we put in the hard yards to transform our school. We worked hard to create a brand of excellence and sustain a culture of high expectations.

My staff and I are passionate and dedicated to do only what is good for the children. I believe that you should not be afraid to confront anyone who comprises the children. If you don't want to work so that all our children succeed, then you don't deserve the children.

Choosing the colour of our school blazer was strategic. We chose our red blazer because it symbolises power and success for each of our learners.  The color is uncommon and it makes a bold statement. When our children wear their uniform, their self-esteem is boosted. The uniform hides their poverty and everybody looks like achievers.

We raised the internal pass rate to 50% and we expect all our children to achieve at least 50% in their
subjects. Each subject has an annual expo to showcase the learners' work to the parents and to inform them about the subject. We also write four full scale examinations throughout the year so that learners are engaging their schoolwork all the time. Our matriculants have a longer school day that is non-negotiable.

What other structures are there at the school that provide the learners with a rounded education?

We have an extensive sport and extra-curricular programme at the school. Many of the clubs are run by the learners themselves. We don't spend time on athletics because a lot of time is wasted at the beginning of the year. Athletics is a sports code like all the other sports. If children want to participate in athletics, they must be at school at 7h00; if not, they forfeit their opportunity. We have extra classes for the entire school.

La'eeqa Martin, one of the coordinators of the MC club and Mr Najaar.

At this point, we are joined by La'eeqa Martin, a Grade 12 learner who is one of the coordinators of the MC  club at the school.

Tell us how MC 2 started and what you do?

Three friends started the club when they were in Grade 10. They wanted to offer Maths and English to the students who needed help in these subjects. I was one of the tutors. When these boys were in Matric, they asked me to step in as a coordinator.

We recruit tutors from the top 20 achievers in each grade. These tutors will then assist the learners after school with their maths. We usually start in the second term and then continue until the end of the year.  The club is run by the learners themselves. We do all the planning, recruiting and the tutorials.

( La'eeqa left and we continued our conversation)

Tell us  about the Maths Olympiad that you run for the primary schools in Mitchell's Plain.

Every year our Maths Department hosts a Maths Olympiad for all the Grade 7s at the primary schools. They set the papers, mark and record the learners' results and then analyse each school's results for them.

I then hand all this data to the primary school principals on a one-to-one consultation session.  Schools can then work on those areas where the learners are underperforming and strengthen the areas where they are doing well.

Proudly Spine Road High School: Three Grade 12 learners with their principal, Mr Najaar.

What drives you to raise the bar at your school?

It's all about giving our children the best they deserve. They do not have to travel out of the area in search of a good school. We are here on their doorstep and they can and will receive high quality education."

After the interview

I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation I had with Mr Najaar and La'eeqa Martin. What I noticed too, is that Mr Najaar knows his learners' names. As I left, three Grade 12 learners were on their way to class. When I asked each one of them what their goal was for this year, they said almost in unison:

" We are aiming for at least 80% and a Bachelors."

That clinched the conversation for me. If the head of the school and his learners boldly declare their goals for success, then a culture of high expectations is firmly rooted at Spine Road High School.

Mr Najaar is open to sharing  the Spine Road Story. Why not give him a call and invite him to tell their story to your staff? 

Let's celebrate and share so that we can all grow together.


  1. Great STUFF! Thanks to the principal and staff.
    We need more of you. Spread this message nationally. All the best for this academic year and the years ahead.

    1. Thanks Kevin. Why not invite Mr Najaar to your school. It is an inspiration to hear about their journey first hand.

  2. Anything is possible with a motivated staff and a principal with vision and drive. We need this kind of inspiration. Thank you for sharing Sharon .

    1. It is only our pleasure, Vangie. Thanks for participating. Do feel free to send all your colleagues the link to this blog post and let them see that vision and drive can help us to transform our poorer schools.

  3. Anything is possible with a motivated staff and a principal with vision and drive. We need this kind of inspiration. Thank you for sharing Sharon .

    1. A pleasure, Champion. Thanks for reading and celebrating the successes of others.

  4. great work Spine Road HIGH!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Agreed! Thanks for popping in and I hope you will join our conversations here on the School Corridor Tatler.

  5. Very inspirational and shows the commitment of the teaching team to excellence.
    Well done Mr. Najaar and the teaching staff as well as the students.
    Why is the Dept of Education not implementing this model at all other High Schools?

    1. The school is indeed impressive, Desiree. It is really up to schools to shape their brand. The mandate of all schools is to provide quality education to all their learners. There are schools like Spine Road that has found the magic to make their school an amazing place to learn. We need to learn from them.

      Thanks for popping in and do visit the blog in future - I'd love to hear more from you.

  6. Kariema Hattas-Ferris12 February 2016 at 05:18

    Excellent. Very glad that Mitchell's Plain also has the quality education our children is in so much need for. I agree back in the Spine Road was labelled the worst place to be and due to mindset of one remarkable person they a force to be recond with. WELL DONE TO ALL WHO CONTRIBUTED IN MAKING THIS POSSIBLE.

    1. I hope Spine Road High School sees all these amazing tributes, Kariema. Yes, the school has indeed showed us what is possible if there is enough passion and drive to beat (most) of the odds. Thanks for popping in - hoping to see and hear from you again.

  7. Inspirational, I'm so touched I wish my child can get enrollment for grade. 8 the school is in demand😭😭

  8. Welldone Principal Mr Najaar


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