South Africa is celebrating successes in its education system, even though there is a long way to go, said Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, as she announced an improved matric pass rate for 2017.
The 2017 National Senior Certificate pass rate was 75.1% with progressed learners, and 76.5% without progressed pupils.
Progressed pupils are those who fail a grade for two consecutive years and are then promoted to the next grade.
A total of 802 431 pupils wrote the exams, Motshekga said at the SABC head office in Auckland Park, Johannesburg on Thursday evening.
The pass rate without progressed learners (at 76.5%) was up by 0.3%, from 76.2% in 2016.
The pass rate with progressed pupils (75.1%) was up, a 2.6% improvement from last year’s 72.5%.
The top performing province was the Free State, which had a 86% pass rate, albeit down 2.2% from 2016.
Poorer provinces showed an improvement in their results, which also prove that the state’s interventions are working, she said.
KwaZulu-Natal, with a 72.8% pass rate, showed the largest improvement this year.
Two provinces recorded below 70%, but still showed improvement – the Eastern Cape, with 65%, and Limpopo with 65.6%
Motshekga said the matric results were a barometer of the country’s performance when it came to education, and were used to glean the ability of the country to provide quality education.
“Interventions are paying off,” she said, and had contributed to the improvement in the results.
Schools with very little resources had really done well – the interventions have improved access to education, helped us to promote equity and improved the quality of education, said Motshekga.
Exams were largely incident free and had been declared a success by quality control body Umalusi, she added.
“Once again I want to take my hat off to the class of 2017. May they continue to have success wherever they are. I’m really grateful to our teachers for giving us support all through the year,” she said.
An upbeat Motshekga even cracked a joke about the number of 2017 matrics who achieved exemptions, saying they had gained entrance to university without having to “walk in”.
This was in reference to Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema calling on matriculants who had passed in previous years but couldn’t afford university fees to “report” to academic institutions.
The University of Witwatersrand, Stellenbosch University and the University of Johannesburg warned today that no walk-in registrations for the 2018 academic year would be accepted.
Universities South Africa, representing 27 universities nationally, called Malema’s statement “reckless”.
Malema’s comments followed President Jacob Zuma’s announcement, just before the ANC’s 54th elective conference, that all students with a joint family income less than R350 000 a year, would receive free higher education.
Zuma welcomed the improved pass rate, calling it a “consistently improving pass rate since the dawn of freedom and democracy in the country”.
“This reaffirms government’s focus on education as an apex priority and the greatest enabler of the society as well as a key aspect of our programme of radical socioeconomic transformation,” said Zuma.
Zuma echoed Motshekga, and called on parents, teachers, friends and relatives to provide the necessary support to all the Class of 2017 matriculants.
Motshekga encouraged those who had either failed matric, or who qualified for supplementary exams to take up the “second chances” offered by the department of education.
She appealed to communities and parents to ensure that these learners “present themselves for supplementary exams. The department will work with learners who failed, to give them a second chance,” she said.
Zuma encouraged those who did not achieve a university pass and those who failed never to lose hope, adding that there was a wide choice of other opportunities.
“We encourage those who did not pass that there are still plenty opportunities to be explored to fulfil their dreams. We wish to remind our matriculants of the many opportunities provided by Technical and Vocational Education and Training colleges and other vocational training centres across the country.
"The learners still have an extra opportunity to better their results in their second attempt during supplementary examinations to take place at many matric rewrite centres.
"They should use this setback as an opportunity to reflect and improve,” he said. – Additional reporting by News24