Crime harms matric pass rates

"According to educational research, crime plays a big role in educational outcomes." (Graphic: John McCann)

"According to educational research, crime plays a big role in educational outcomes." (Graphic: John McCann)

For two years, Missourilaan Secondary in Eldorado Park has been unable to exceed a 30% pass rate for its matriculants. But the Kagiso Secondary School has been on an upward trajectory for the past three years, garnering a 98.7% pass rate last year.

The two Gauteng schools don’t exist in a vacuum, and crime and hunger are just some of the factors that affect pupils’ results. The only major difference between the two schools is that one has been able to enlist the residents and the local police station in tackling the problems posed by crime in the area.

According to educational research conducted by Constance Khupe on turnaround strategies for schools in difficult circumstances, crime plays a big role in educational outcomes.

“Hunger, poverty, disease, crime and poor service delivery are a hindrance to learning and increase the challenge of school turnaround,” she said.

The Mail & Guardian homed in on a few schools in Gauteng and looked at the effect of crime on matric pass rates.
The province last year had the second-highest pass rate, 84%, and the second-largest number of pupils.

But schools in the Kliptown police station precinct have been battling to break through the 60% pass mark; in fact, their marks have been on a downward trajectory over the past three years. About 9 000 crimes were reported to the police station in 2015-2016. Of these, 1 620 were contact crimes, which include sexual offences and murder.

The Klipspruit-Wes Secondary School saw a dip in its results to a 52% pass rate — a three-year low. A teacher at the school attributed the drop to the crime in the area and its negative effect on results.

She related cases of drugs being sold to pupils through the school’s palisade fencing. Last year, 1 674 drug-related crimes were reported to the Kliptown police.

“Our biggest problem on the school property is the drugs. We have been trying to build a wall for a while now but we don’t have the funding. At times the police will assist and at times they won’t bother to pitch up,” the teacher said.

The school held extra classes in an attempt to assist pupils, especially matriculants. But some of them have to walk through a graveyard to get to school and are attacked.

“On their way to school very early in the morning they are mugged and beaten.

“No one can expect a child to concentrate once they have gone through that trauma. Their results will dip and that’s why we have low pass rates,” she said.

There were 400 reports of robbery with aggravating circumstances at the police station, according to last year’s crime statistics.

Another school in the area, the Silver Oaks High School, had a 61% pass rate.

The Kagiso police station features in most top-10 crime statistics comparisons. Last year, 14 350 crimes were reported to the station, with drug-related crimes, murders and sexual offences comprising a large number of them.

The station received reports of 1 286 common assaults, 79 murders and 178 sexual offences — one of the highest.

Overcoming the odds, some schools in the area continue to achieve an 80%-plus average pass rate. The Kagiso Secondary School is one of them. Its principal, Vuyisile Zali, said they were also affected by crime.

“Our pupils are not immune to the gangs and violence but, because of the programmes we have established, they are able to talk to us and tip us off about any incidents. We [also] have an officer who is always on call and we report such,” he said.

Zali said his school was no different to any other, but the participation of residents and interaction with them was the only way to ensure that pupils were not adversely affected by crime.

“We have had incidents where our pupils have been victims of such serious crimes. The school does intervene, asking the pupils to lay charges, get the pupil counselling and bring in a social worker. This is to ensure that the pupils continue to do well at school and focus on their studies,” he said.

The Mosupatsela High School, near the Kagiso police station, is also on the up, with a 90%-plus pass rate last year and above the 80% of the previous year.

The SG Mafaesa Senior Secondary School has attained an 80%-plus pass rate for the past three years. The school’s principal, Michael Makhunga, believes the school’s no-nonsense code of conduct helps to keep the pupils in check.

“The school is a microcosm of our society and our society is violent, as the crime statistics show. But we have worked hard in engaging parents, the local police station and the community in our school,” he said.

Athandiwe Saba

Athandiwe Saba

Athandiwe Saba is a multi award-winning journalist who is passionate about data, human interest issues, governance and everything that isn’t on social media. She is an author, an avid reader and trying to find the answer to the perfect balance between investigative journalism, online audiences and the decline in newspaper sales. It’s a rough world and a rewarding profession. Read more from Athandiwe Saba

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