The notion of underperformance is relative and contestable. It is for many schools a label that is applied and removed as curriculum policies change and political imperatives alter. This article is a brainchild of the Community Engagement Project undertaken with the six chronic underachieving high schools in Limpopo province. Each of the rural schools was in extremely pathetic circumstances, as the percentage of learners achieving success in gateway subjects was 0%. The project, commissioned by Unisa’s Department of Curriculum and Instructional Studies, aimed to develop a strategy that will increase learner performance. Technical jargon, lack of target and professional development were the focus of primary attention in the study. A qualitative approach was employed to afford a range of external support in each school. With the assistance from the identified district, Mathematics’ best teachers from the dinaledi (stars) schools where purposefully sampled to assist with the intervention programmes on weekends and vacations. After the first year, results in all schools started to creep up, and by the time the project finished in the third year, all schools were well in line with South Africa’s NSCE norms. The project was held up as a great success and the schools rightfully celebrated.