Celebrating its 50th year of existence this year, Star Schools is nationally renowned for the thousands of lives it has changed through the various education programmes it offers.
It was around 1968 when two men, one an English language specialist and the other a scientist, realised the financial potential of presenting extra lessons in English and science to groups of students, rather than individuals. The language specialist was Jacques Shellshop, while the scientist was none other than William Smith, who went on to become the country’s best-known and most popular television science and mathematics teacher. The classes proved to be so successful that Shellshop and Smith were soon joined by a maths teacher and later, biology, history and geography teachers. Over the years the programme came to be known as the Saturday School.
Since then the company has celebrated numerous milestones, beginning with the launch of the Matric Rewrite Programme in 1986 in partnership with The Sowetan.
“Today this programme is acknowledged as one of the biggest and most successful of its kind in the country, yielding an average annual pass rate of around 78%,” says Star Schools managing director Haroon Motalib. “Many learners who qualified for tertiary education after successfully completing the Matric Rewrite Programme have gone on to become engineers, lawyers, accountants and doctors. Others are company secretaries and CEOs.”
In 1998 the Department of Transport in Gauteng became the first organisation to sponsor Star Schools’ newly introduced Incubator Programme, which enables organisation to sponsor selected learners at under-resourced schools in the communities in which they operate.
“The first batch of matriculants who had been mentored from grade 10 achieved 54 distinctions and a 64% bachelor pass rate,” Motalib reflects. “The programme was awarded the Gauteng Premier’s Service Excellence award.”
Closely aligned to the Incubator Programme is the Grade 9 Maths Programme, launched in 2013, which seeks to enhance learner confidence in mathematics.
“Companies sponsor extra tuition to grade 9 learners hoping to improve their foundation skills in maths, thus convincing them to choose the subject in the FET phase (grade 10-12) of their schooling,” Motalib explains. “The long-term objective is to encourage more learners to enter study fields such as engineering, where mathematics is a requirement for study at institutions of higher learning.
“A recent graduate of the programme saw her maths marks improve by a staggering 49 per cent, while 30 other learners showed an achievement increase above 30 per cent between the June and December exams.”
Star Schools’ newest offering is the Amended Senior Certificate (ASC) Programme, which enables adults who did not complete their high school education, or failed their matric examination, to obtain their school leaving certificate and thus further their education if they so choose.
“Star Schools has come a long way since the Saturday classes of the sixties, but throughout our existence we have remained committed to our core purpose, which is to equip learners for life by helping them reach their true potential,” says Motalib.
“By empowering learners through the provision of world-class education we are helping them to take the first, yet arguably, most important step on their journey towards success,” he concludes.