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An open letter to Angie Motshekga

Dear Madam

I know that you are a busy person and this period in particular is the most hectic with centenary celebrations in full swing. I would like to congratulate you and your department, together with nine MECs and the respective departments in various provinces.

Let me rather skip the pleasantries and get to the crux of this letter, I am a worried citizen of this country. I note with jubilation, laced with scepticism, at the unfolding events surrounding our matrics. The fact that they achieved a 70.2% pass rate is one to be celebrated — but at what cost? I also find it rather disingenuous that one only needs 30% to pass a subject — meaning that out of 10 chapters all they need to know is three of them. My burning question is, who must know the other remaining seven chapters?

Would it make sense, madam minister, if we held elections today and a winner was declared for achieving only 30% of the votes? Would it make sense if we held a vote tomorrow and a winner is declared for achieving 50.1%?

Now that we are mass producing our matriculants, my other burning question is where these mass products are going to be absorbed? Who will hire someone who only knows 30% of the things they are supposed to? Imagine being in hospital and the doctor tells you he cannot diagnose a disease or cannot use a stethoscope and when you ask why, he tells you that he only learned the easy part of the curriculum so as to achieve 30% pass mark?

Have you ever considered that these mass produced matriculants have a higher likelihood to drop out of university just because the tertiary system is centred around 50%? With this looming, what is going to happen to these drop-outs once they find tertiary life to be difficult?

I must also point out that tertiary life is difficult, even for the ones that achieve 60%, so what about the ones who achieve 30%?

My last question is, if a high jumper fails to clear the bar what do you do as a coach? Do you (A) lower the bar; (B) train the jumper harder; or (C) none of the above?

With all due respect, congratulations again to you, your deputy, MECs and everyone in the education department for this unprecedented feat.

Teboho Motshitele is a young father of two. He has a passion for education and economic freedom.


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  1. Sterling Ferguson Sterling Ferguson 5 January 2012

    Very good comment but, the people in the ANC are not listing to you or professor Jensen. In the US one has to make seventy to pass and in SA the passing rate is forty percent lower then in the US.

  2. Wayne Wayne 5 January 2012

    I think your article lacks the critical thought that this blog requires.we all know that we have to set higher standards for sure if you and i knows it then angie motshekga also knows it. she isnt the education min for nothing. even if the pass % is low that doesnt stop any learner from working towards 80% or higher.s africans are to quick to blame everything on the govt. you to have low standards that is why you post such a low standard letter. if mg had higher standards your letter wouldnt be on this blog.

  3. mike venter mike venter 5 January 2012

    I tried to employ various race young people as admin and general work around the office. Needless to say, I had to get rid of them and employ older people, different backgrounds and areas, the lost was the same.

    They did not know how to file papers alphabetically, they could not do maths out of their heads to save their life’s. They had zero discipline, and this is no demanding jobs, it’s office type work, the entry level stuff you offer to school levers and students to help with extra money.

    Another lot unemployables lost to the future of SA..

  4. The Creator The Creator 6 January 2012

    The point about this article is that it asks the questions which we all know, or all should know, are important, but which the endless celebration of an alleged achievement, the supposed high pass rate, discourages us from thinking about.

    Yes, there is a high pass rate. But is this a good thing? In order to answer the question we would need to know the validity of the pass rate and then we would need to know the relevance of the pass rate to the needs of the country. Without this information we do not know if there is anything to celebrate.

  5. Observant Observant 6 January 2012

    What has happened to those of us who have past above 50% at grade 12? Is a future brighter because of distinctions that we obtained at grade 12? My experience says NO! Employment in this country does not correlate with educational achievement. I have B’s and C’s at grade 12, 15 distinctions from university studies, 10 academic merit awards and I am unemployed, poor, homeless and just observing how less academically qualified politically-linked individuals get better opportunities than me. Am I irrelevant, I do not think so, am I bitter, yes, bitter at the destruction of our future by our current mismanagement of the country.

  6. Peter Joffe Peter Joffe 6 January 2012

    Congrats to the ANC and to Angie Motshekga. You have created another 500,000 future strikers for delivery services and applicants to the welfare system. Angie, job creation starts with you and you have failed us all as we, the producers will have to try to pay the costs of welfare that you helped to create. Soon all of these ‘graduates’ will have to sit in front of a potential employer who will want to know what value he will get for his investment in them. The answer to this is mostly cost with no hope of any productive work and then, he will not be able to fire them because of the labour laws. The answer for employers is ‘DON’T” employ and if you can, get a machine to do the work.The country is overflowing with well educated Zimbabweans who came from the best education system in Africa. Employ them as Mugabe is like the ANC and did not need good people but they are here to be used to rebuild the mess that the ANC has made through not knowing that they don’t know. Employers are prevented from employing good ‘learners’ because they don’t fit the racist profiles created by an ignorant government. Search for the maximum in education and don’t tolerate a reduction in standards just to get an increased number of ‘passes’ in a failed system.

  7. Judith Oakley Judith Oakley 6 January 2012

    Well put. Our education system needs a total overhaul so that we produce youngsters who are thinkers but balanced with the ability to implement practical ideas. I also believe that we need to look at producing skilled artisans in our country as there seems to be a huge gap here.

  8. Moi Moi 6 January 2012

    Mike, I relate to your comments but your spelling is appalling!

  9. Tofolux Tofolux 6 January 2012

    Personally I would not have written this letter and would rather have taken the opportunity to congratulate all the matriculants for this important milestone in their lives. Personally, I would not rubbish the efforts of all their hardwork noting the remarkable percentages achievement through – wait-for-it – STUDYING. Personally, I would note the achievement of Gauteng in particular for increasing their pass percentage hot on the heels of Western Cape ie closing the gap between these two competing provinces. Also, what about the school in Soweto who in the face of challenges achieved such an amazing turnaround. How about that as a positive achievement by ALL stakeholders.
    The point I am trying to make is that we are disgracefully unthankful. We are so ready to rubbish our own children in the face of huge challenges. We are so ready to rubbish our country, We are so ready to rubbish our own.
    Question, have you done comparables between our African country and the West?
    Have you compared the state of education in these ‘”first world” countries against ours?
    Lastly, let ME congratulate all our new matriculants. Let me too, congratulate those who supported you during this momentous year. I welcome you into the fold adulthood and a whole “new”world. May every decision you now take, be the one which will lead into many a positive direction. WELL DONE!

  10. Judith Judith 6 January 2012

    Tofolux – the comparisions with out neighbouring countries reveal that we are just not producing the required skills and our matriculants are nowhere near the same standard.

    The letter criticised the education departments, not the students whom they are failing.

  11. benzo benzo 6 January 2012

    I stay in a little dorp in the Hantam Province, Northern Cape. The high school achieved a pass rate of 95%. That is the good news!
    Absolute numbers reveal that this matric cohort was 20 kids of which one failed. Not a number to make an impact on the overall performance of the Northern Cape Province in percentages.
    This percentage number game to argue the issue of education -up or down- is a silly way of dealing with a serious issue.

  12. mike venter mike venter 6 January 2012

    @Observant, it’s not so much about achieving higher marks that will guarantee you getting a job or a better job than others. It shows you have commitment and perseverance and that is effectively how you go through life and conduct yourself and how you achieve your goals. It set you up as a well rounded and balanced individual.

    @Moi, thank you for being the vigilant Nazi police among us, I apologise you could not understand what I wrote due too the two mistakes I made, I was responding from my cell and porky man fingers are not made for small key boards.


    It is good to see parents challenging the low standards. Bravo.

  14. MLH MLH 6 January 2012

    I would really be interested in seeing how many matriculants passed the ten years pre-1994 and for once, I’d love to know their racial groupings. I’d like to see comparisons all round; after all, Mandela is a qualified lawyer and I know not the only one among them.
    Has what is wrong with the system now, always been wrong? I listened this morning to a discussion about the unfair advantage Model C schools have. When will people get into their heads the fact that R200/y does not buy a R20 000/y education?
    It is my contention that the people most to blame for the state of ‘township’ schools are the politicians who pulled their kids out of them and willingly gave their new money to existing private schools. They forsook their own.
    They still are!

  15. Gungets Tuft Gungets Tuft 7 January 2012

    900,000 kids started Grade 1 in 2000, fewer than 500,000 wrote Matric in 2011. 400,000 kids were lost along the way. 350,000 kids passed Matric this year with something like 1/2 of those getting exemptions to study further.

    This is not am improvement in the pass rate at all – 38% of those that started school in 2000 passed Matric this year. It’s a disaster, nothing more, nothing less. As someone has already said, many of these 350,000 that passed matric this year are going to be unemployed, what the hell chance do the 400,000 dropouts have?

  16. Lyndall Beddy Lyndall Beddy 7 January 2012

    When did academics ever make money anyhow? So why does everyone want to be an academic?

    Ever see the movie “Blue Moon”. I thought it very funny! The plumber had established a business and was rich, the university professor was as poor as a churchmouse.

  17. benzo benzo 9 January 2012

    One of the comments:

    Someone did his sums
    Cannot check the numbers but if true, the word should be spread:

    Blade – January 9, 2012 at 10:22
    Report comment
    Apartheid government built ten Universities for blacks including Medunsa which is a unique medical university that turned out 200 highly qualified black doctors every year all at state costs, paid for by the white taxpayers. It also trained paramedics and nurses.

    Since 1970 the budget for black education was raised by about 30% per year every year. More than any other government department.

    In the period 1955 -1984 the amount of black school students increased 31 times from 35,000 to 1,096 000.

    65% of black South African children were at school compared to Egypt 64%, Nigeria 57%, Ghana52%, Tanzania50% and Ethiopia 29%.

    Amongst the adults of South Africa, 71% could read and write (80% between the ages 12 and 22). Compare this to Kenya 47%, Egypt 38%, Nigeria 34% and Mozambique at 26%.

    In South Africa, the whites built 15 new classrooms for blacks every working day, every year. At 40 children per class it meant space for an additional 600 black students every day!!!

  18. Tofolux Tofolux 9 January 2012

    @ Tebogo, the more I read your letter the less convinced I am of your “passion for education and economic freedom” Just some hectic contradications. But then again, wolf in sheeps clothing, well you know the rest.
    @ Judith, the worst thing one can do is defend the indefensible. This fundamentally talks about one’s morals and values. This letter SPEAKS directly to the so-called calibre of students. It virtually concludes that they are mass-produced idiots who have failed some ïntellecutal ” standard.
    @ Benzo, your racist tirades are so an absolute waste! I think that Tebogo, should in fact have noted your intellectual capacity and used this as a standard (YOH)! for his notion of standard for the new generation of the “mass-produced” (geez) matriculant.

  19. Dawid Dawid 9 January 2012

    How much of this significant improvement is genuine and how much has been “manufactured” for the ANC Centenary so that the ANC controlled government can look good

  20. Dawid Dawid 9 January 2012

    The present state of the South African economy and the current availability of jobs should not deter students from aiming for high marks. They should consider the job market beyond South Africa as well and make sure that the quality/standard of their matric achievement will be accepted internationally and not count against them, if any good opportunity arises, because their claimed achievement is of doubtful quality

  21. Al Al 10 January 2012

    @Mike Venter. Remember to always strive for excellence, no matter the circumstances!

  22. MLH MLH 10 January 2012

    And the saddest thing, over the last few days. It has been trumpeted about that the amount available for tertiary students who cannot afford further education has been quadrupled. Was it Blade who said: ‘Don’t let the lack of money stop you.’ But the number of youngsters queuing to obtain late placement is vast and now we are told that 180 000 children with good enough passes to proceed into tertiary institutions will find no places. The ANC would have left a fantastic legacy had it decided to build facilities to train them rather than having their weekend party in honour of its last 100 years. In another 100 years, it seems even more kids will be up the creek with no paddles and no jobs.

  23. MLH MLH 10 January 2012

    Thanks, bezo. That info was illuminating.

  24. benzo benzo 11 January 2012

    @Tofolux: “@ Benzo, your racist tirades are so an absolute waste……”

    If quoting statistics has become an expression of racism, society has reached an absolute low. If the same can be seen as an “intelligence test”, society could do away with psychologists and their test batteries.

    Interesting take :-))

  25. Israel Matjila Israel Matjila 11 January 2012

    Believe me when I say,”you are a non-traveller” you know little if not nothing about the standards of education out there. Get yourself a computer and check some blogs on educational standards around the world. South Africa is amongst the best for your information. We stand tall because our learners (thanks to the apartheid regime) study their wits off. In other countries learners are given lessons relevant to their exams.

    You study until you know by heart all answers to the forth coming examination and the questions that will be given. Do you really think our learners would be so stupid that a certain country would produce a 90% pass with 100% distinctions and 10% absentees. People out there know how to prepare their kids for relavant jobs while South African kids will have to find their way around opportunities.

    Your letter starts with a good message and ends up in smoke filled with dagga smell. I think you should go learn and try making sensible comments and submissions to the news papers. Our teachers, MEC and ultimately the Minister, have done so much for these kids that I commend their efforts. South Africa must be up there and shinning even if it needs to restrategise when it comes to education.

  26. Tom Shabalala Tom Shabalala 13 January 2012

    This is a good discussion that goes on everywhere in the world. I am glad we are doing that. I hope in the future we start it in March not only after the matric results. I think everyone has enlightened me.

  27. Lyndall Beddy Lyndall Beddy 14 January 2012

    Actually, if you check back 30 years you will probably find the pass rate is always roughly the same – this is because the education department has always marked up or down to stay consistent. For the last 17 years they appear to have been marking up. I remember how annoyed I was to be told by my school that I had got an A for Maths, only for the marks to be graded down that year (1965)- so I got a B.

    Which is why Zimbabwe’s education system for blacks was better than South Africa’s – it was an external exam. That is also why parents are turning to home schooling and the external Cambridge exam for their children.

  28. Lyndall Beddy Lyndall Beddy 15 January 2012

    Actually, I feel sorry for Angie – she inherited the mess of Outcomes Based Education, she did not create it.

  29. Garg Unzola Garg Unzola 15 January 2012

    @Israel Majita:
    Actually, South Africa declined to participate in standardised, international evaluation of education because our performance is so dire. Fact is our education system has deteriorated.

    The author makes a very strong point. The dropout rate for first years at tertiary institutes testifies that our matric is not on par and does not prepare candidates for tertiary education, let alone for entering the job sector.

    I think Lyndall Beddy is onto something: Let’s get external examinations to ensure more objectivity and to ensure that the numbers cannot be cooked, the education department can’t lower the bar to blow its own horn and South Africa’s matric is an internationally accredited matric.

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