"I knew what I wanted and I was willing to put in the hard work to get it," Masiphumelele High School matriculant Lwando Melamane told GroundUp.Melamane matriculated as the top student in his school, getting distinctions in Maths, Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, Geography, Life Orientation and Xhosa. He was also just two percent shy of getting a distinction for English."When I was in Grade 10, I was not doing so well but there were three students in my class that were so clever. I told myself that is where I want to be," said Melamane. "I was not reaching them until I pushed myself to work harder."Melamane was raised by a single mother who works for Pick n Pay. She said she knew her son was going to pass but did not expect him to do so well.He used to live with his mother in a two-room shack next to a tavern but later moved to his uncle in a much quieter part of Masiphumelele."I did not like living far from my mom but I couldn't study there because the house is small and it is next to a tavern so it was always noisy," said Melamane.READ: This top Khayelitsha matriculant walked two hours from school, cooked supper and then did her homeworkHe has been accepted to study mechanical engineering at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and was accepted at three other universities."Mechanical engineering is my first love. It is what I have always wanted and to be accepted at one of the best universities in the country is a dream come true," said Melamane.His classmate and study partner Aphinda Jabe obtained distinctions in Maths, Physical Sciences, Xhosa and Life Orientation. She has been accepted at UCT to study chemical engineering."I am very happy that my hard work paid off… I want to make something of myself and my marks give me the opportunity to do that. I can now become what I want to be. I always wanted to make medicine and create something that will improve other people's lives," said Jabe.Curriculum backlog due to gang violencePrincipal Mncedi Nelson Mafrica told GroundUp that even though the 57.5% pass rate was not high, it was better than what they expected.The school had embarked on a turnaround campaign after a massive drop in the matric pass rate from 71% in 2016 to 48% in 2017. The campaign was to change the 48% to 84% in the following school year. It did not reach its target, achieving a pass rate of 57.5% in 2018.Mafrica said last year's matric class had the challenge of catching up with their peers after a "massive curriculum backlog" in 2016 due to disruptive gang violence in the area, which some of the pupils were involved in. This also resulted in poor class attendance.ALSO READ: Western Cape achieved top spot in 'real matric pass rate' - MEC"In the September 2018 trial results, our pass rate was in the bottom forties and we had to come up with ways to make sure we improved in the final term. We did camps where the students slept at the school even during the exams," said Mafrica.He added that the school received support from the Department of Education in 2017, which ended in 2018 due to the improved pass rate. "I feel like that support should have at least continued for three years and stopped once the school is in a better position. One year is not much. The support is still needed," he said.