South Africa


Finger-pointing, but no solutions for improving pass rates in poor schools

Finger-pointing, but no solutions for improving pass rates in poor schools
The Houses of Parliament in Cape Town. (Photo: Daily Maverick)

A question on Thursday in the Western Cape Provincial Parliament about turnaround strategies to improve the quality of passing for learners from poorer schools led to a discussion that was adversarial rather than educational.

Just when Ferlon Christians from the African Christian Democratic Party asked that politics be removed from the conversation about turnaround strategies to improve the quality of passing for learners coming out of quintile 1-3 schools in the Western Cape — the poorest of the poor, — the ANC and the DA unsurprisingly did exactly that.

During the parliamentary sitting on Thursday afternoon, Christians asked what provincial MEC for education Debbie Schäfer and her team were going to do as a turnaround strategy to ensure matriculants from these schools pass with good marks.

We were astonished to see we are lagging behind,” said Christians of his previous visits around the province, including Laingsburg, where he noticed that there was a huge gap in the percentages of Bachelor’s pass rates for schools from poorer areas and those from richer schools.

In 2018, according to the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), 41,350 learners in the province passed the National Senior Certificate examinations. Of this number, there was a 42,3% Bachelor’s pass rate — a requirement for university admittance into the degree programmes.

The proportion of Bachelor’s passes in Quintiles 1-3 has more than doubled since 2009. This is most significant in Quintile 1, where the Bachelor’s percentage increased from 8.7% in 2009 to 24.2% in 2018,” said Schäfer at the time of the results were released.

We need to do something to have a turnaround,” said Christians, the sole ACDP member in the legislature.

I do agree that we are nowhere near where we are supposed to,” said Schäfer, but blamed this on budget cuts to the department and budget cuts across the country, but insisted that Quintile 1 schools had increased their pass rates and their Bachelor’s pass rates. There was a 70% pass rate in these schools.

After several interjections by the ANC’s Muhammad Khalid Sayed, deputy chief whip and party spokesperson on education, Schäfer said:

Honourable Sayed, I’m sick and tired of hearing from the ANC.”

Amid taunts, Schäfer managed to say:

We can’t fix the fences, employ more teachers because there’s no money… we can’t employ teachers without more money… because of the ANC’s abject failure in the Eastern Cape, we’ve had more than 20,000 learners”.

Data from Statistics South Africa’s mid-year population estimates statefor the period 2016-2021, Gauteng and Western Cape are estimated to experience the largest inflow of migrants of approximately, 1,643,590 and 493,621 respectively”.

The issue of families migrating from rural, poorer provinces such as the Eastern Cape and the Northern Cape for better employment and education opportunities dates back to former premier Helen Zille’s time in office, when she labelled children who come from the Eastern Cape as “refugees” — and since, this type of descriptor of these children has stuck.

At one point, Christians made things political too — asking for a debate on sex education in line with his party’s stance on this issue.

But Christians was not the only one who kept politicking.

Brett Herron from Good said the DA was making “Good” policies on the basis of the premiers’ Safety Plan, and the ANC wanted a motion agreed to over its ward by-election win in the Matzikama municipality — as did the DA on its ward by-election wins in Tafelsig and Wesbank on Wednesday. DM


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