Johannesburg - Matriculants in the Western Cape have beaten eight other provinces to become the province with the best pass rate.
Gauteng's Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi admitted that he was sad to miss out on the top spot, but relieved that the transition from textbooks to paperless classrooms was moving along.
“Missing the number one position is unfortunate but we are relieved. We now believe we can fast track our ICT strategy in the matric classrooms in Gauteng,” he said.
Gauteng came second with an 84.2% pass rate behind the Western Cape with an 84.7% pass rate. The Free State was the third-best performing province with an 81.6% pass rate, followed by North West with 81.5%. Next was Mpumalanga with 78.6%, the Northern Cape with 69.4%, Limpopo with 65.9%, and KwaZulu-Natal with 60.7%.
The worst performing province was the Eastern Cape with a pass rate of 56.8%.
Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga said the three worst performing provinces - also the country's three biggest rural provinces - caused a 9% drop in the pass rate.
They had 53% of the country's pupils.
At a briefing on Wednesday morning, Lesufi said principals from four of Gauteng's underperforming schools would be fired.
By the time schools reopened they would no longer be in their jobs, he said. District officials who were supposed to give guidance to these underperforming schools would also be sacked.
"If the schools have not performed, then these officials have also not performed," Lesufi said.
The announcement was made after Gauteng education department head Edward Mosuwe said four schools in Gauteng got pass rate below 20% in 2015.
In KwaZulu-Natal where the pass rate had dropped by 9%. Education department head Nkosinathi Sishi described the drop as disappointing.
He called on teachers and their unions to ensure the "bounce back programmes", to help those matrics who had failed, were a success.
“We need to focus on results from the first quarter. Basing our intervention on matric results is basing it on results that mean nothing, because those learners are no longer in the system."
The new curriculum with its new demands needed more teachers, he said.
Meanwhile in the Free State, MEC Tate Makgoe on Wednesday hailed the province for its performance in the 2015 matric exams.
"We are proud of the outstanding performance our learners have given us this year - this is definitely a distinction province," he told reporters in Bloemfontein.
Makgoe said he was excited that the province had achieved a 81.6% pass rate and that the top achievers achieved above 90%.
"Ever since we came in 2009, we were sitting at 69% pass rate, but since 2012 we have been maintaining the 80% pass rate and we are excited - next year we will be on 90%."
Moving north of the country, Limpopo's final exam marks were tarnished by the leaking of an exam paper.
MEC Ishmael Kgetjepe described this as the most "shocking story" in the province in the past 19 years.
A total of 101 575 pupils wrote the final matric exams and got a 65.9% pass rate, compared to 72.9% in 2014.
He said the Life Sciences paper was leaked at the Marude Secondary School in the Vhembe district on the eve of the exam.
The scandal, blamed on poor security at the department, prompted Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to force pupils to rewrite the paper.
Kgetjepe said preliminary investigations found the leakage was not widespread, and expressed the hope that the culprits would be arrested and prosecuted. The matter was reported to the police and a case of fraud was opened.
The Eastern Cape's pass rate dropped from 65.4% in 2014 to 56.8% in 2015.
According to a report by the City Press, MEC Mandla Makupula said he regretted that the province had recorded the country’s lowest matric pass rate again.
Makupula said honest introspection was needed.
“This is a major setback and a reversal in our overall performance. This call for urgent, honest and systemic introspection,” he said.
Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle also expressed his disappointment in the results.
He said the province coming bottom of the class of 2015 as “a difficult moment”.
“The year 2015 presents us with an outcome that makes us not proud,” Masualle said.
Numerous efforts had been made to try and deliver quality learning and teaching, but what had emerged pointed to areas that needed focus and strengthening, he said.
“We have got to see to it that we intervene in an uncompromising manner. There are pointers already that are beginning to emerge, areas that need to be attended to with greater intensity.
"We cannot afford and we are truly not proud to be where we are,” he said.