Limpopo may have improved its matric results in 2018, but this did not stop criticism from opposition political parties about it finishing last among the country's nine provinces.
The EFF has gone as far as calling for the removal of Education MEC Ishmael Kgetjepe.
On Friday, Kgetjepe provided the breakdown of the province's results, which he described as a "milestone achievement". He also recognised the best performing candidates, teachers, schools, districts and circuits at a ceremony in Polokwane.
The province obtained a 69.4% pass rate, an improvement of 3.8 percentage points from the 2017 mark. A total of 76 730 candidates sat for the exams in 2018 and, of these, 53 254 passed.
Bachelor passes increased from 18.4% in 2016, and 21.4% in 2017, to 23.5% in 2018.
The province had earlier set itself a pass rate target of 80%.
The overall national pass rate for 2018 was 79.4%, Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga announced on Thursday. This reflected a 2.9 percentage point increase from the 2017 pass rate of 76.5%.
'All of us were not happy'
Kgetjepe said all stakeholders should understand the challenges and opportunities, with "a view of being part of solution providers in improving the education situation in the province".
"Equally important is our continuous collaboration with parents. It is essential that parents become an integral part of their children’s education.
"By so doing, parents become knowledgeable of their children’s strengths and weaknesses and ultimately are able to advise learners on the choice of subjects and possible careers," Kgetjepe said.
- See our Matric Results page.
He said the department had reorganised the districts to enhance their capacities, to bring resources closer to schools, and to fast track the delivery of quality education in the province.
"During the announcement of the 2016 results, the then-MEC made a commitment to ensure we do not ever again experience a sharp decline in our Grade 12 results. At that time, our results had dropped from 65.9% in 2015, to 62.5% in 2016," Kgetjepe said.
"All of us were not happy with that result. We all wanted to see our results increasing in line with [the] national trend. We could not accept a situation where many of our kids fail to pass their matric."
However, he remained disappointed that three schools had enrolled a combined total of 26 matric learners, but had obtained zero percent pass rates. The schools are Senwane (12), Letshega-Malokwane (12) and Ramoroke (2).
'Limpopo is number last'
"We have been saying that small schools are not viable and not sustainable educationally. Efforts of the department to rationalise these schools are often met with resistance and reasons which do not advance education and the interest of learners at these schools," Kgetjepe said.
On underperforming schools, he said: "A team of officials has been assembled and will be strengthened."
But EFF provincial chairperson Jossey Buthane said the province's performance was not good enough.
"Limpopo is number last, failing to achieve at least 70%. This happened precisely because the department has no leadership.
"The MEC has got no skill and capacity to run the department and does not inspire confidence. Whatever is done in that department is being run by outside forces. The primary concentration of these outside forces is on tenders that come from this department."
Speaking to News24, DA provincial leader Jacques Smalle said, although the pass rate had increased in 2018, the education department's leadership could have done more to obtain a higher percentage.
"We need more dedicated and competent officials and political leadership," he said.