Results cover-up

2008-01-09 00:00

It was confirmed this week that national Education Minister Naledi Pandor is seriously considering preventing the media from publishing matric results. If this is enforced, matriculants will have to collect their results from their schools in future.

What reasons can there be for ending what is a long-standing tradition in South Africa —effectively part of our social fabric? After all, the publication of results is in its own way an important milestone en route to adulthood: it’s an occasion for social bonding, for sharing joys and triumphs and hopes, for confronting and coping with disappointment and for regrouping energy and resources. It is also an example of democratic transparency at work: the successes and shortcomings of our education system are there for all to see and to question. What possible justification could there be for ending it all?

The reasons given by the Education Department are less than convincing. First it tried to blame newspapers which “do not always publish the right information” and which try to make a profit from the results by selling them at inflated prices. It suggested also that the move would be in matriculants’ best interests because it would eliminate the pressure of waiting for results to appear (although the waiting period would be pretty much the same, surely?) and would “remove the burden of having the rest of the country knowing whether you have passed”. Further, it would prevent young people from drinking and indulging in antisocial behaviour while hanging about waiting for newspapers.

This mixture of the far-fetched and the trivial smacks of a cover-up. What it’s saying is that once matric results no longer appear publicly in the media, no one will know exactly how bad they are and how wretchedly the Education Department is serving young people and preparing them for the future. It’s saying also that as far as the department is concerned, looking and sounding good (and kind and caring) is much more important than doing a decent job. And by implication, it’s saying that things are going to be bad for the indefinite future. Thus, one assumes, there’s little or no intention of dealing with and overcoming such huge problems as inadequate teacher training and the giant student:staff ratios consequent on the countrywide shortage of 40 000 teachers, not to mention the often inappropriate and impractical curricula.

In any democracy, openness and public accountability are absolute essentials. Pandor needs to abandon at once her knee-jerk cover-up response to the latest miserable matric results, and to turn her attention to the unremitting hard work necessary to improve educational standards.

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