While the DBE basks in the glow of the matric pass rate, the ATM dished up some ‘sobering’ stats on the real state of our nation’s education.

Following hot on the heels of the long-awaited release of the 2023 matric results on Friday morning, the African Transformation Movement (ATM) has called for a “critical examination” of the factors that have played a role in the alarmingly high school dropout rate.

The Class of 2023 overall received a record-high 82.9% pass rate, with 40.9% obtaining bachelors’ passes.

This despite being labelled by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga as “real Covid-19 babies” who were exposed to the pandemic during Grades 9 and 10, as well as face the country’s worst year of load shedding on record throughout their matric year.

Out of the 715 719 matrics who sat for their National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations, roughly 200 000 did not pass.

ALSO READ: Matrics overcome the ‘eye of Covid-19 storm’: Class of 2023 obtains 82,9% overall pass rate

Matric ATM questions quality of education

According to ATM national spokesperson Zama Ntshona, the party is also concerned about whether the quality of education and the required 30% pass mark equip matriculants for the standards expected by institutions of higher education and those seeking employment.

The party urged the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to reassess the pass mark requirement and consider raising it to 50%.

“The current system, while showing improvement in pass rates, often falls short in adequately preparing learners for higher education and, subsequently, for the challenges they may face in the workforce,” Ntshona said.

This should be viewed against the background of the alarming projection that the youth unemployment rate is set to trend at around 60.5% this year and 61% in 2025.

High dropout rate a ‘sobering reality’

“The statistics reveal a sobering reality. Out of the 1.2 million learners who enrolled in the Grade 1 Class of 2012, only 572 983 have successfully completed their matric exams in 2023.”

This indicates a significant loss of nearly 50% of learners who initially entered the school system but never made it to their final year.

The ATM’s concern regarding the high dropout rate was echoed by the Democratic Alliance (DA).

“The real matric pass rate is only 55.3%, an increase from last year’s 54.6%. The real matric pass rate is calculated by bringing into account the number of learners that dropped out and never made it to matric,” the party’s shadow minister of basic education, Baxolile “Bax” Nodada, explained.

ALSO READ: ‘Real matric pass rate is 55.3%,’ says DA

ATM calls for reintroduction of technical colleges

“The IEB [Independent Examination Board] results, boasting a 98.46% pass rate, indicate a positive trend,” the party’s spokesperson said.

“The ATM wishes to emphasise the need for an inclusive and comprehensive approach to education reform.”

The party is also calling for a revamp of the curriculum to be more skills-based and the reintroduction of technical colleges.

“This approach aims to equip students with practical skills and knowledge, thereby the post-graduation unemployment rate,” Ntshona explained.

ALSO READ: ‘It’s about how standards are set’ – IEB CEO weighs in on Lesufi’s matric exam comments

Teen pregnancies and high crime rate

Motor Industry Staff Association (MISA) Chief Executive Officer: Operations, Martlé Keyter, also weighed in on the high dropout rate of learners.

“Last year, it was announced that more than 12 000 children, between the ages of 10 and 14, fell pregnant in 2022. Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, announced in December 2023 that the figure increased to 90 000 children who fell pregnant,” said the CEO of the union, which assists its members with study bursaries for their children.

“According to a report she tabled in Parliament, 88 122 schoolgirls between the ages of 15 and 19 fell pregnant in 2023. In addition, 2 328 girls between 10 and 14 years old also fell pregnant during the year. These figures are shocking,” Keyter continued.

ALSO READ: South Africa’s other pandemic: Teen pregnancy

“Last year, Police Minister Bheki Cele revealed that 300 children were killed between April and June alone in 2023. This year we celebrate 30 years since our first democratic election, but South Africa remains the most unequal country in the world, according to Oxfam International’s latest Inequality Inc. report.

“Something is terribly wrong,” said Keyter.


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