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Angie fails the test for accountability

A full 10 days after the state’s quality assurer, Umalusi, gave the government the green light to release the results of over 800 000 young people’s final exams, just under half of these remain either publicly unknown or impossible to find. 

Although the nation might have an inkling about how pupils affected by the 2012 Limpopo textbooks fared (thanks to a brief mention in Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga’s speech), the effect on thousands of teacherless Eastern Cape pupils remain unclear. 

When Umalusi approved the release of 627 544 matric pupils’ results, it also did so for 183 866 vocational college students. But among the matric pupils, the results and pass rate of the 94 884 part-time candidates who wrote matric 2014 — and whose results are not used to calculate the overall pass rate — remain unreleased.  

The public is also yet to hear a syllable from Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande about the pass rate of students at the 50 public technical and vocational education and training colleges who wrote their final exams.  

On Monday, Motshekga did not mention the part-time pupils. But they are not the only ones about whom she had nothing to say. She congratulated Limpopo’s pupils for their 72.9% pass rate, in light of the 2012 textbooks crisis they endured. But, despite the Eastern Cape’s rock-bottom 2014 pass rate of 65.4%, she failed to mention its decade-long problem of vacant teacher posts. 

On Wednesday a principal at a high school in rural Centani in the Butterworth district said he was disappointed Motshekga had not mentioned the pupils’ struggle to pass matric because of vacant teacher posts, which he said was as damaging as the Limpopo pupils’ problems. “We got a 58% pass rate and it is mostly because we don’t have enough teachers.”  

Large class sizes
Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said: “The teachers we have teach subjects they are not comfortable with, and we have to sometimes have classes as big as 100.”  Some teachers were employed on a temporary basis and “struggled to get paid by the department” so they “come and go”. 

Thousands of vacant teacher posts and the affected schools’ fundraising to pay salaries the government owes the teachers have been the subject of much legal action during the past decade, led mainly by the Legal Resources Centre (LRC). In December a judge ordered the province in December to pay back 90 schools more than R81-million in teacher salaries they should never have had to pay themselves. 

LRC regional director Sarah Sephton said it was “no surprise that Eastern Cape pupils did worse than any other province when its education department is content to  allow thousands of learners to be without the teachers they need”. 

From matric data released this week, it is impossible to ascertain how many (if any) of these Eastern Cape schools were investigated for “group cheating” (See “Best response to a cheating scandal? Completely confuse everybody“). The results of all schools countrywide that are still under investigation  for cheating remain unreleased. 

Departmental spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said Motshekga’s speech was “limited to highlighting broadly key issues that the department needed to address. Among [them] was the whole matter of teachers … There are countless topics she did not touch, simply because of time constraints.” 

Under Nzimande’s watch, about 183 866 students wrote the national certificate (vocational) (NCV) final 2014 exams. But the figures for the students who wrote the national accredited technical diploma (Nated) exams are not available.  The NCV’s final year is equal to matric in national qualifications policy, which means passing the NCV qualifies students to apply for university study.  

John Volmink, chairperson of Umalusi, told the Mail & Guardian he “would love to see” college results being announced publicly.  “We’re giving the vocational courses a Cinderella status [by] only celebrating the school-leaving certificate.” 

Interest from the public
He explained this by drawing a parallel with the group-copying scandal: “In the case of KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape, the public is holding those [implicated] centres to account … because the public  is now interested.”  

Gwebs Qonde, director general of higher education and training, said the college results were too complex to announce matric-style. “Post-school is not run as the schooling system is — that’s the first thing to understand. Results are released [to students] per programme, and as per the duration of that programme. It happens throughout the year.” 

But Dr Joy Papier, director of the University of Western Cape’s Further Education and Training Institute, said: “We do need to work towards something that allows us to look at what the success rates of colleges are. At the moment that isn’t the case.”  

See editorial: Matric 2014 a blaze of confusion

Matric 2014:  Highs and lows

• 532 860 full-time pupils wrote matric (down from 562 112 in 2013. The results of part-time pupils are not used to calculate the pass rate);  

• 75.8% full-timers passed (down from 78.2% in 2013); 

• 94 884 part-time pupils wrote (up from 92?611 in 2013); 

• 28.3% of the full-timers qualified for admission to study for a bachelor’s degree (down from 2013’s 30.6%); 

• Provincial pass rates in ascending order, with 2013  figures in brackets:  Eastern Cape 65.4% (64.9%), KwaZulu-Natal 69.7% (77.4%), Limpopo 72.9% (71.8%), Northern Cape 76.4% (74.5%), Mpumalanga 79% (77.6%), Western Cape 82.2% (85.1%), Free State 82.8% (87.4%); North West 84.6% (87.2%); Gauteng 84.7% (87%); 

• 53.5% of full-timers passed maths (59.1% in 2013); 

• 61.5% full-timers passed physical science (67.4% in 2013); and 

• For the first time, none  of the 81 school districts achieved less than 50% pass rates; last year, only one did.  — Victoria John

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Bongani Nkosi
Bongani is an education reporter at the Mail & Guardian.
Victoria John
Victoria studied journalism, specialising in photojournalism, at Rhodes University from 2004 to 2007. After traveling around the US and a brief stint in the UK she did a year's internship at The Independent on Saturday in Durban. She then worked as a reporter for the South African Press Association for a year before joining the Mail & Guardian as an education reporter in August 2011.

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