Teacher unions call for action more matric news on page 3

EDUCATION unions are demanding better oversight and a clearer chain of command as the province grapples with the poor 2015 matric pass rate.

And they are demanding that both Education MEC Peggy Nkonyeni and her department head, Nkosinathi Sishi, show leadership and take responsibility for the results.

This is after the province’s matric pass rate dropped nine percentage points from 2014 to 60,7% in 2015. In 2013 the pass rate was 77%.

Of the 162 658 pupils who wrote, nearly 99 000 passed, while some 63 000 failed their matric exams.

A total of 34 751 pupils passed with entry to bachelor’s degree studies.

All 12 education districts in the province declined from their 2014 National Senior Certificate pass percentages.

The declines range from 1,94% to 12,75%, according to the results released last week at Durban’s International Convention Centre.

But Nkonyeni was adamant the province had “a good story to tell”, a view at odds with all unions. “Despite the declines [in pass rates] in large key subjects, the performance of the province shows that the number of passes was satisfactory,” she said. Nkonyeni, however, admitted there was a need to go “back to the drawing board” and analyse the data.

The department faced criticism throughout 2015. Unions said during the year they doubted the “Bounce Back Programme”, which was created to improve on the 2014 results, would work, while late last year the National Basic Education Department released a report into a teaching posts-for-cash scandal involving unions and senior officials within the KZN Education Department. “We have identified gaps such as vacancies that we will need to fill, predominantly in the subject advisory positions,” said Nkonyeni.

National Teachers’ Union spokesperson Alan Thompson criticised Sishi and the MEC for failing to address the critical shortage of teachers in the province.

“Teachers are overloaded and nothing has been done to address this.

“The province is not serious about reducing the number of pupils in the classrooms. As it stands, the classrooms have been converted to mass meetings, with up to 80 pupils in a class.”

National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa spokesperson Anthony Pierce said “there is something that has gone wrong and it needs to be fixed”.

“There is a willingness to teach across the province and curriculum, but the capacity has become a challenge, including those teachers who have just entered the system. The department needs to ensure it has an advisory service to deliver competently. A clearer chain of command is needed. Mr Sishi needs to read the riot act to the current advisory committee.”

Pierce also challenged the former Model C schools, which are often well-resourced, to refocus on academics instead of sport, saying there was a noticeable lack of top achievers from top Model C schools.

Sadtu provincial secretary Nomorashiya Caluza called the results “very disappointing and embarrassing”.

“This is a time for us all to reflect. We hope the department also deals with systemic challenges such as over crowded classrooms.

“In early 2015 we said the Bounce Back Programme would not produce results as it was imposed from senior management. Successful programmes need proper engagement,” she said.

Caluza said teachers need to be empowered through training that suits their circumstances and needs.

“Teachers need confidence, and if they don’t have this they cannot teach.”

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