Drop-outs drag pass rate down

MADELEINE CHAPUT and THANDEKA NTLONTI

FORGET 72.5%, the true matric pass rate in South Africa is much lower, according to Equal Education.

By taking into account the number of pupils who register in foundation phase grades when the current matrics started school 12 years ago and the number who eventually make it to matric, the actual matric pass rate is finalised at a shocking, 44.8%, the organisation said.

The Eastern Cape is, with a matric pass rate of 63.3%, once again the poorest performing province in the country.

The province is also considered one of the more rural provinces in South Africa, therefore facing various challenges within the schooling system, including poor infrastructure, poorly trained teachers and overcrowded classrooms.

There are a myriad of complex reasons behind this continuous “defeat” in the Eastern Cape, but ultimately all stem from early on in a child’s schooling career.

“Matric success starts at birth with early stimulation and exposure to language, numeracy and critical thinking skills. Children start school with such high hopes to only be dashed with a lack of leadership and accountability throughout their learning career,” former George Randell Primary headmaster who is now involved in the Small Projects Foundation (SPF) Hilton Williams said.

SPF is a non-governmental organisation that has contributed to community empowerment and development in the Eastern Cape and nationally.

SPF is a community development and training trust that specialises in the areas of project management, social marketing, development facilitation, training, innovative development, research and evaluations.

Williams fleshes out various reasons for the high dropout rate suggesting that an overstructured and everchanging syllabus, students being taught and examined in English as opposed to their mother tongue and a system which discourages students and raises unrealistic expectations are leading factors.

He attributes these problems to “a lack of leadership and accountability within a background of violence and poverty.”

East London educational psychologist Sheryl Maastrecht reiterates this lack of accountability as the main source of difficulties within the schooling system. “Schools are under-resourced and educators are undertrained to manage pupils with different educational needs and barriers to learning.

“These problems are being identified too late whereas early intervention could help them to stay in the school system and not drop out. The costs for individual assessment and therapy falls on the parents and is not carried out or subsidised by the Department of Education and yet many parents cannot afford the private fees of professionals such as educational psychologists, remedial, speech and/or occupational therapists.”

There is a huge disparity between city schools run by competent governing bodies and rural schools lacking leadership and resources and there is an abundance of these struggling schools within the Eastern Cape.

“Inequality in access to quality education is still dividing and impoverishing our nation,” Maastrecht explained.

The dreary 44.8% pass rate is a direct effect of high dropout rates within the schooling system as stipulated by Equal Education.

This, however, is indicative of the various problems within the foundation phase schooling system.

“I feel so passionate about our lost youth and know that they can be helped,” Williams said.

The regional Equal Education office based in King William’s Town had not commented at the time of going to print.

POOR NUMBERS: The graphic below shows the matric pass rate over the last five years using Equal Education’s calculations that factor in drop-outs

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