Matriculant’s dream survives – but system still ‘stinks’

The University of Natal has come to the rescue of a matriculant who, despite passing with four distinctions last year, had resigned himself to being another unemployment statistic.

When Julius Mojapelo of Gauteng received his results in December last year, he realised that he had inadvertently forfeited his exemption – the big ticket for any matric graduate to be accepted into university – by following the guidance of his teachers to drop four of his subjects to standard grade at the beginning of his matric year. ‘That dishonest matric pass rate,” he says of the announcement three weeks ago that passes had increased again, from 69% to 73%.

‘I asked most of my teachers what is higher grade – it was the first time that I had heard about such a thing. They showed me some question papers and the history of how people cope on higher grade,” says Mojapelo. ‘I didn’t know if I was good enough and I didn’t want to fall into the category of people failing on that grade, so I decided that maybe I am a standard-grade type of guy.”

But his results paint a different picture. The marks for his four standard-grade subjects were: 100% for business economics, 98% for economics, 91% for accounting and 77% for commercial maths. His two higher-grade subjects were Afrikaans (82%) and English (58%).

Mojapelo’s dream of becoming a chartered accountant evaporated when companies that were initially willing to fund his tertiary education closed their doors when they discovered he did not have an exemption.

But there was one exception: Nkonki Incorporated, an accounting firm in Johannesburg with a direct interest in supporting and training fledgling black chartered accountants. On Mojapelo’s behalf, Siphiwe Sithole, a director of the firm, contacted nine top universities, to be told the same story: his standard-grade passes meant no exemption, and so he could not be considered for admission.

‘Julius’s situation points to the mismanagement of the entire matriculation system,” Sithole says. ‘In the end the victims are the school kids – not the politicians, not the administrators, not the teachers. How do you tell a kid with four As to go back and repeat matric on the correct grade?

‘Here someone has predetermined this boy’s fate,” she adds. ‘The school, which is advised by the government, already put limitations on his future and that stinks of some kind of social engineering.”

Late this month the University of Natal agreed to accept Mojapelo for its Alternative Access Programme, which will spread his bachelor of commerce degree over four years.

‘I am very happy but also scared because I don’t know this place, KwaZulu-Natal. Now I want to go to my mother and tell her face to face,” says Mojapelo.

Pieter Buys, headmaster of Eden Park Secondary School, where Mojapelo matriculated, says: ‘I don’t know if [Mojapelo] was told about [the] consequences. He should have been advised. This is the first student that this has happened to.”

Duncan Hindle, Deputy Director General in the Department of Education, responded that, ‘We need to acknowledge that in most schools there certainly is insufficient career guidance. This is a difficulty we are trying to pick up in different ways.”

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Vicki Robinson
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