As bottles of champagne will be popping in the minister’s offices in celebration of the just over 3% improvement in the matric pass rate, I can’t help but sit here and wonder if it’s really worth celebrating. I, instead, find myself lamenting the stats. The real stats.
We have achieved a 73.9% pass rate this time around but with only 26.6% of learners passed with University exemptions. Which set of digits matter more? Realistically speaking, only 26.6% passed matric but only 26.6% will be able to go to university and persue meaningful careers. Careers that fit right into our emerging knowledge based economy.
But even within that 26.6%, not all of them will be able to go University simply because we do not have enough Universities to accommodate them. A quick fun fact, or not so fun fact, since 1994 there’s only been 21 Universities in South Africa. The number of universities has not increased since then. If we’re going to celebrate successes then we need to be able to accommodate those successes, we need to build universities.
What’s even more saddening is that we regard 30% and 40% percent as pass marks. This does not hold up to global standards. That’s why we will always find Zimbabwe producing better high school graduates than South Africa. My High School principle always said that by accepting the precedent that by accepting 30% and 40% as enough we set a further precedent that it is okay for doctors to only know 30% of the human body, it is okay for Pilots to only know 30% of the operations of an airplane. This, fellow South Africans, is ridiculous. 50% should be the bare minimum because that’s what gets you a chance of going to University. We celebrate mediocre results. That is a shame.
In 1976 our parents sacrificed their lives because they were fed up with an education system that allowed them to only be garden boys and tea girls. Do we need to sacrifice our lives before the government takes our education serious? Do people have to die first before we realize that it is ridiculous to be complacent with 26.6%, to be complacent with 30% and 40% as our pass marks?
Another quick fun fact, or not so fun fact. Only 40% of learners that started school in 2001 made it to matric. What happened to the other 60% of my brothers and sisters?
Two things need to change, the government should start taking our education serious and we should start taking our education serious.
Until that happens, South Africa is not free.
- Oliver Dickson is a second year students at Wits University, a debater at Wits Debating Union, Projects Liaison Officer of Engineers Without Borders (EWB-Wits), a writer, public speaker and community activist.
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