Thembela Ntongana, GroundUpCape Town - Fewer than one in two Grade 12 pupils at Masiphumelele High School passed matric in 2016.The school’s matric pass rate dropped from 70.1% in 2015 to 48.9%. The school had 239 matrics out of 1198 pupils last year.Masiphumelele High School is now classified as an under-performing school, defined by the Department of Education as a school with a pass rate of under 60% in the National Senior Certificate.The national pass rate for matrics was 72.5%. It was 86% in the Western Cape.The beginning of the school year was marked by protests against the principal. One pupil was killed during gang violence among pupils.School governing body chair, Silulama Mtirara, said the violence in the area had affected pupils. She said the children were “out of control”.“Not once have we sat down and looked at the impact it may have had on them.”“This year we had gang violence at the school, which we have never had before. We had protests, and all those things meant days out of the classroom. Sadly the Grade 12s are the ones who suffer the most,” Mtirara said.The school needed the co-operation of parents, but they did not attend meetings.One teacher told GroundUp that there was poor attendance from pupils.“The attendance at school was not good at all. Even the people we hired to help tutor were having difficulties because there was no interest shown by students. The classes were not taken seriously. Some tutors even stopped,” he said.Nikita Mbokothwana, 17, who passed matric, had hoped to study nursing, but her maths marks were not good enough. She was proud of her marks after a hard year, but embarrassed about the school’s low pass rate.“I tried my best. At the beginning of the year we had to stay at home and study by ourselves. Then the principal was suspended. He was strict, yes, but things were going smoothly. When he was around, we didn’t have these problems,” Mbokothwana said.Western Cape Education Department spokesperson Jessica Shelver told GroundUp that each education district would develop a plan to support under-performing schools in a bid to get the pass rate above 60% in the 2017 matric exams.