I watched the basic education minister, Angie Motshekga, deliver the matric results on eNews yesterday afternoon. It was not pretty. Neither were the results impressive. And the minister’s speech was awful. There were times when she lost me completely, most of all when it came to the actual provincial results. Or was that the district results? Or maybe the local constituency results? All very bizarre.
Her basic grasp of pass rates, percentages and increased or decreased performance standards over the previous year was spectacular. There were moments when I thought I was dyslexic as I tried to unravel and understand the set of numbers being thrown at us.
But the alarm bells really started to sound in my tiny brain when I heard the praise for the Limpopo province pass rate of 72.9%. They were forgiven for this poor result because books were not delivered. Ahem, whose fault was that? This started a flurry of applause from the floor which continued as each dismal provincial pass rate was announced. And at the end when the Gauteng province was proudly lauded as being the best performer with a pass rate of 84.7%, certain members of the audience almost fell over themselves in their delight. All this self-posturing and congratulations when 15.3% of their candidates failed? And the national pass rate is only 75.8%? And only a mere 28.3% of students achieved a bachelor’s degree entry-level pass rate?
We are in trouble, teachers. We are in big trouble, Minister Motshekga. We are in very big trouble, Mr President. Notwithstanding the scandal about copying and cheating. Notwithstanding that fact that we “lost” hundreds of thousands of pupils in the schooling system over the years. Those who started out in 2002 but never wrote the matric exams in 2014. Who maybe never wrote a grade eight. Who simply disappeared out of the system. Despite all of this we simply cannot be pleased with our education programme when almost 25% of the population who wrote the exams in 2014 failed. And failed off a base of diminishing pass-rate criteria. When 30% is good enough? I think not.
So I worry about our children. All of them. What of the 130 000 odd kids with no matric pass who cannot find a job? And what of those 150 752 geniuses who did crack a varsity pass? How many of them will fall by the wayside after year one? The irony for me personally is that my own daughter has passed with a university exemption and yet she cannot get into a university of her choice to do what she wants, despite getting three distinctions and an overall B aggregate. Go figure.
We need a plan madam minister. We need help, educationalists. Our children are suffering. Please don’t leave them alone!