The DA has accused the Eastern Cape department of education of failing learners of the province.
This, after the province dropped its pass rate from 76.5% in 2019 to 68.1% in the matric class of 2020. The province was the second worst performing in the country.
Yusuf Cassim, DA spokesperson on education in the Eastern Cape, said the dismal performance of the Eastern Cape matriculants should in no way rest on the shoulders of learners, but rather on those of the Eastern Cape department of education, which has consistently placed greed and self-interest above the needs of its learners.
“At a time of crisis, when extraordinary measures and support were needed, the department instead piggy-backed the Sizwe Africa IT contract through, providing rented tablets to learners at exorbitant costs. These devices did little to aid the matric class of 2020, with their data contracts halted by the court, the true cost of this folly is yet to be determined,” said Cassim.
He, however, commended all learners who, despite one of the most difficult academic years on record, have overcome obstacles and excelled in their studies and also appreciated educators who went above and beyond to assist learners during this year.
Cassim said the results were not an indictment on the youth of the Eastern Cape, but a scathing indictment on an ANC-led department that has seen an opportunity for looting and self-enrichment in a time of crisis, even if the cost is the future of the children of the province.
“When matriculants needed access to schools, the department was fast asleep and failed to put the necessary plans in place to reopen schools after the initial hard lockdown. When matrics needed access to PPE, the department was too busy dishing out tenders to ANC cadres, making millionaires out of hairdressers and real estate agents on the back of inflated personal protective equipment, while learners went without,” he said.
Malibongwe Mtima, provincial education spokesperson in the Eastern Cape, did not reply to questions despite promising to do so.
In announcing the results last week at the Sterling Leadership Institute in East London, education MEC in the province Fundile Gade said the Covid-19 pandemic had hit their department hard as they lost teachers, administrators, learners and even the head of department, Themba Konjana, who succumbed to the virus.
Despite this, more than 130 000 candidates managed to write examinations in 2020.
Gade said the department of education in the Eastern Cape had to conduct National Senior Certificate examinations in 933 full time public schools, including 50 independent schools and 147 part-time centres.
The 933 full time examination centres, inclusive of public and independent schools, registered 79 888 full time candidates. At least 5 842 markers were employed to undertake marking, and 1 200 examination assistants were appointed to support the marking process.
At the time, Gade praised the education department for saving the 2020 academic year when it almost seemed certain it would be lost.
“The department of basic education, to the disbelief of many doomsayers, marked this achievement despite the global push to postpone examinations as was the case in other countries,” he said.
All districts experienced a drop in pass rates with the highest drop of 14.9% in Joe Gqabi, followed by OR Tambo Coastal at 12.5%. However, more learners earned Bachelor passes in 2020 at 21 886 compared to 20 419 in 2019. The highest rate of Bachelor passes were obtained in Buffalo City Municipality at 37.5%, followed by Nelson Mandela Bay at 36.9% and Sarah Baartman at 32.8%.
The top three performing districts were Nelson Mandela at 75.5% pass rate, Buffalo City Municipality at 73.6%, as well as Chris Hani West at 70.5%, while the bottom three performing districts were Joe Gqabi at 61.5%, Chris Hani East at 62.2% and Amathole West at 63.2%.
The MEC continued to heap praises on teachers in the Eastern Cape for their efforts during an anxious period of working in a Covid-19 pandemic environment.
“My heart goes out to all of our teachers for their dedication and hard work. You made us proud for your heart-warming battles against the onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic and went the extra mile to ensure that our learners had every opportunity possible to succeed in the NSC.
“You provided extra lessons; you participated in Saturday schools and afternoon sessions, you provided additional study materials; you ensured that your learners’ school-based assessment was completed and the results submitted on time. You encouraged and cajoled. We, the citizens of the Eastern Cape salute you and thank you for all that you have done for our young people,” he said.
He said as the government they are painfully aware that there is a long way to go in providing all children in the province with quality education and that as a department they were ready to welcome over 1.7 million children to schools in 2021.
Gade said 95% of schools have received their workbooks, textbooks and stationery and that the remaining 5% of schools ought to have received their books before the end of February.
“School furniture was delivered to schools throughout the year and we have large numbers of furniture in stock to address shortages reported in 2021. The Teacher Development Prospectus for 2021 has been developed and circulated,” he said.
Premier Oscar Mabuyane, who has previously called for an 80% pass rate said: “The 8% drop in the pass rate is understandable for this year because of Covid-19, but we cannot drop the pass rate this year and cite Covid-19 as a reason for the drop. We should have learnt lessons from last year and developed our plans to work in the new normal of Covid-19 because the virus will be with us for the rest of this year.”
What was also of concern for the education sector in the province was the high dropout rate in the Eastern Cape.
Gade said that of the 211 133 pupils who began Grade 1 in 2009, and were in the books of the department, only 82 449 were in Grade 12 which indicates a 61% cohort loss in the 11 years.
Cassim said the Eastern Cape dropout rates could in part be attributed to overcrowding, lack of appropriate sanitation and infrastructure, lack of sufficient scholar transport and insufficient qualified teachers to teach critical subjects.
“The department has failed these learners. I will be submitting questions to education MEC Gade, requesting that he provides a detailed report on what the department is doing to address these astronomical drop-out rates.
“I will also be tabling a motion in the legislature to compel the department to track learners that have dropped out, assess the specific causes for the learners leaving school and provide the necessary interventions, alongside other departments such as social development, to reintegrate these learners,” Cassim said.