Since the end of Apartheid in April 1994, the new South African government has been struggling to remedy years of inequity, particularly regarding substandard education. Testing Hope: Grade 12 in the new South Africa chronicles the lives of young people facing their future in the evolving democracy of South Africa. The film follows four students – Babalwa, Noluyanda, Mongamo and Sipho – at Oscar Mpetha High School in Nyanga township, just outside of Cape Town, as they work towards their crucial Matric exams which one student calls “the decider."

Every grade 12 student in South Africa is required to take a series of Matric exams based on the subjects they study. These exams determine access to higher education, jobs, and future success. High results can help students gain entry to university, but most students in Nyanga, if they pass, simply receive a school-leaving certificate, the equivalent of a high school diploma.

While this is the Nyanga of a new South Africa, many vestiges of apartheid remain – poverty is entrenched, many students live in shacks, and family structures are dramatically changed by the impact of HIV-AIDS. Despite a promise of opportunity, 52 percent of people aged 16 to 25 are unemployed. Testing Hope follows the students as they prepare for the exams, which they believe will determine their future. What hangs in the balance if students pass Matric and what awaits those who do not? How do they achieve their dreams in a country where so many obstacles remain?
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Major funding provided by the Kellogg Foundation,
the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Wallace Global Fund,
and the Fulbright Scholarship.