The South African Federation of Trade Union (SAFTU) congratulates the matric class of 2021. The 2021 matriculants have with all the challenges in the system that were exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic including losing learning time for 2 years, passed the National Senior Certificate (NSC), improving the pass rate by 0.2% to 76.4%.
In real figures, it means out of 733 198 learners who wrote matric, 537 687 passed. The federation is also pleased that a number of Bachelor passes have increased by 21.4% from 2020 to 256 031 in 2021. Equally, there was an increase in the number of distinctions by 19.3% to 211 725.
The other notable achievement of this class that must be commended is that pass rate increased in the critical categories of progressed learners, learners with special needs and learners in correctional services.
The class of 2021 had 61 789 progressed learners. Out of this total, 21 499 passed, with 3 440 obtaining Bachelor passes. Learners with special needs who enrolled for the NSC in 2021 were 2 4489, 1 937 of them passed with 879 passing with Bachelor passes. Learners from the correctional facilities who wrote the 2021 NSC were 111, and 59 of them obtained Bachelor pass
The performance of learners cannot be understood outside of its nexus with the people who, with their exquisite skills, render educational services. Thus, behind these achievements are Educators, who despite the difficulties of work overload, lack of resources, infrastructure and conducive working environments, still soldier on to produce excellent results.
Matric educators are pressed by their departments in various provinces to carry out lessons during holidays and on weekends. These great sacrifices, that come at personal costs socially, cannot go unnoticed. In essence, educators are literally the only thing holding onto their shoulders, a system that has symptoms and signs of paralysis and collapse.
Educators at the lowest phases and grades should also be saluted. It is in this developmental phase, where the critical skills and abilities learning are transmitted onto children so that they are able to excel on their own in higher grade. For every 100% you see in English in Grade 12, it is sequence of vowels and consonants that were taught in developmental phases of foundation and intermediate.
It is especially in poor schools ― quintile 1 and 2 ―, where children from broken working class families with less parental support attend, that the indispensable role played by Educators is starkly witnessed. Here not only do they carry out teaching, but carry socio- economic and psycho-social burdens of the learners.
System still fails many working class kids
Though the Department of Basic Education (DBE) celebrated the performance of recipients of social grants, that obscures how government is failing children of the poor. For instance, 1.1 million started schooling in 2010, an ambitious estimate show that only 671 409 reached matric in record time. This means barely 60% of the learners in one learning cycle, the 2010 – 2022 learning cycle, reached matric.
But what causes these failures?
SAFTU has always pointed to the underfunding of education and the incompetence of the management of DBE. Because of underfunding, there is lack of infrastructure, lack of Learning and Teaching Support Material (LTSM) and reduction of the headcount in schools.
National Education Infrastructure Management System (NEIMS) reported in 2021 that 17 832 schools have no libraries, 19 840 have no natural science laboratories and 15 584 have no computer centres. Many schools that have been declared full service schools, are not resourced enough to cater for learners with varying learning barriers.
The devastating consequences of a combination of these factors are a higher Learner-to- Teacher (LET) ratio of 33:1 ― which is even higher if one takes peculiar features of individual schools ―, poor childhood development in social skills, poor development in educational outcomes, high stress levels for Educators and generally, poor performance.
In these systemic faults, not only does the poor performance of learners in matric trace its roots, but the poor performance of schooling grades in general that lead to learner dropouts.
SAFTU call on government to increase its expenditure on public education so that infrastructure and other essential resource can be procured, including to hire more Educators and support staff.