FEDUSA – Improved Pass Rate Hides Quality and Equity Failures

7 January 2020

The Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) has welcomed the significant improvement in the 2019 matric examination pass rate to 81.3% from 78.2 % in 2018, according to the numbers announced by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga on Tuesday; making it the highest in 25 years of democracy. FEDUSA is particularly proud of and salutes the members of its affiliated union membership representing the heroes of this momentous achievement, the teachers from the Public Servants Association (PSA), the South African ABET Educators Union (SAAEU) and the Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwysersunie (SAOU), for their dedication and unconditional commitment amidst often challenging circumstances, to reach this new height, said FEDUSA Acting General Secretary, Riefdah Ajam. The fruits of collaboration must however equally be acknowledged, as the role of parents, teachers and learners alike, have demonstrated that a benchmark has been firmly set and the only direction now, is upward.

However, as has become custom, the announcement was virtually silent in meaningful comparisons in the sense of quantity versus quality; for example, although the number of pupils achieving Bachelor Degree exemptions has increased to 186 058 in 2019 from 172 043 in 2018, in itself a welcome improvement, given the important role played by tertiary education in scarce skills training and the 4th industrial revolution requirements. There was no indication of what the target was, nor what interventions had been put in place to achieve that target given past experiences showing that the lack of properly trained teachers especially in the critical areas of mathematics and science teaching, was one of the main contributing factors.

It would also have been very useful to explicitly compare the number of pupils who had enrolled in Grade 1 in 2008 compared to those who had progressed through the system to eventually write matric examinations in 2019. Such a comparison is of paramount importance as the high number of young people who drop out along the way – nearly 400 000 in the previous year – only adds to the youth unemployment crisis currently ravaging the country.

Similarly, while the strong showing by largely rural provinces such as Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape; with the Eastern Cape leading this cohort with a 5.9% improvement from 2018 to achieve a pass rate of 76,5% is commmendable and may be indicative of policy interventions that are slowly beginning to bear fruit, these improvements pale in the light of the highly impressive 98.82% pass rate that has been achieved by independent schools and indicate that well known socio-economic and infrastructural problems besetting schools in working class and poor communities. FEDUSA insists that the Minister of Education alongside her provincial counterparts must do everything possible to ensure that structural impediments that hamper effective teaching and learning such as late textbook deliveries, lack of electricity and running water; and pit latrines that are health and safety hazards and death traps as noted in 2019, do not persist in any way.

As a heightened spirit of positivity ushers both teachers and learners into the 2020 academic year, FEDUSA calls on Minister Angie Motshekga to ensure that the spirit of success is catalyzed through heightened collaboration and engagement, that will ensure that the doors of life – long learning, competitiveness and innovation will redirect and catapult the South African economy into enhanced economic liberation.

( 549 Words)


For interviews please contact

Riefdah Ajam

FEDUSA Acting General Secretary

079 696 2625

Issued by:

Frank Nxumalo

FEDUSA Media and Research Officer

072 637 8096

 Email: research @fedusa.org.za