Limpopo, KZN home to SA’s worst schools

Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape are home to most of the country’s dysfunctional schools, which recorded the worst pass rates in the 2009 National Senior Certificate Exam.

Matric pass rates at these problem schools were between 0 and 20%.

This was revealed by Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, in response to written questions from the Democratic Alliance’s Michael de Villiers in June at a meeting of the National Council of Provinces.

Motshekga said a total of 506 schools across the country achieved pass rates between 0-20% in last year’s matric exam, where the national pass rate was 60.2% a drop from 2008’s 62,5%. Of the 506 schools, 19 achieved a 0% pass rate.

She said her department had developed a programme — the Rapid Assessment and Remediation Initiative to “decisively respond to schools that have dramatically underperformed. This was with a view to diagnosing the challenges that have contributed to the underperformance in schools and to introduce short-term interventions that address these problems.”

The assessment of underperforming schools showed that Limpopo tops the list with 186 schools, followed by KwaZulu-Natal (119), the Eastern Cape (108) and Mpumalanga (70). Gauteng has 11 such schools. Meanwhile, the Western Cape has only one poor performing school, the Northern Cape has two, the Free State has four and there are five from North West.

Motshekga also pointed out that district offices had failed to provide adequate support to schools under their care. Last month experts pointed out to the Teacher that most of the district offices across the country lack organisational capacity to provide the necessary academic and logistical support to schools under their jurisdiction.

According to Motshekga, other contributory factors to the underperformance of these 506 schools include:

  • The lack of leadership by principals and inadequate supervision of the work of both teachers and learners
  • School management teams which do not understand their roles and responsibilities and are unable to monitor curriculum delivery
  • Vacant and unfilled teacher posts which hamper curriculum delivery
  • The prevalence of teacher absenteeism, limited teaching and lateness
  • Learners’ problems linked to absenteeism, truancy, drug and alcohol abuse, ill-discipline and teenage pregnancy and habitual late-coming
  • Poor curriculum planning at the school, which results in inappropriate subject offerings and combinations as well as poor time-tabling
  • Teacher subject knowledge gaps
  • Lack or shortage of textbooks and relevant learning and teaching support materials and
  • Lack of support from the school governing bodies and parents.

Motshekga indicated that the “assessment indicates that these schools are dysfunctional and require major interventions in terms of infrastructure, management, human resource development and teacher development”.


Alan Clarke, former principal of top performing Cape Town school, Westerford High, and an education management specialist said although he is not familiar with the education department’s intervention programme, the situation can be fixed by doing a few basic things.

These, he said, are quality teaching and a hands-on approach by school principals. He said a principal’s role is to create an environment in which quality education can take place. This must involve the principal monitoring what happens in the classroom.

“Principals must know what the teacher does in a classroom: does he or she have the knowledge of the subject and how does he or she teach the subject,” said Clarke.

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Thabo Mohlala
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