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Thursday, January 20, 2022

South Africa’s zero-percent pass schools face the music

Thami Magubane

The KwaZulu-Natal Education Department has summoned the schools that achieved a zero-percent pass rate in the matric exams last year to explain what went wrong.

Nine schools in KZN produced a zero-percent pass, according to the results released last week.

This was a marked increase from the three schools that had a zero-percent pass in 2017.

Education MEC Mthandeni Dlungwane had previously said the department was working to ensure no schools in the province had all their pupils fail matric.

“We will meet the school principals and district directors before the week is out for an explanation of why this went wrong despite all the support provided,” said Education Department spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi.

“Some of the schools are non- viable schools (where there are not enough pupils) that we wanted to close down. But we faced opposition from the community who are sentimental about those schools.

“The total number of pupils combined that failed is less than 100 as most of these schools have very few pupils, but that does not change the pass rate. If a school has one pupil and that one pupil fails, that is a 100% fail at that school,” he said.

He said the outcomes of the meetings with the principals and district officials would be presented to the communities where the schools were situated to convince them the schools were not academically viable.

However, unions and political parties laid the blame for the schools’ poor performances on the department, saying it had not provided them with support.

DA education spokesperson Dr Rishigen Viranna said the schools were situated among the poorest and most vulnerable communities and deserved strong support.

He said the plan to phase out non-viable schools had stalled.

“If you look at the classes where the pupils failed, they are not big classes, some of the classes only had eight pupils, one had 17, so it is not an issue of overcrowding,” he said.

SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) provincial secretary Noma- rashiya Caluza said among the challenges was that the number of teachers was determined by the number of pupils at a school, which should not be the case.

“The number of teachers at the school should be determined by the number of subjects being taught at the school.

“When the number of teachers is cut because the number of pupils has declined, teachers are forced to teach multiple subjects – some of the subjects they never trained for. We have always stated that the number of teachers should be equal to the number of subjects,” she said.

She said the lack of urgency when appointing teachers was also contributing to the problem. “If the department appoints a mathematics teacher only in September, what is that teacher going to achieve?”

She said targeted intervention could turn the situation around, saying that Sadtu had adopted a school that had a zero-percent pass in 2017 and in 2018, the school’s matric pass rate had improved to 55%.

The Mercury


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