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Testing times: Matric exams kick off, but Covid-19 may have spawned another lost generation

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Prof Michael le Cordeur is the Vice-Dean Teaching and Learning in the Education Faculty at the University of Stellenbosch.

Next week, more than a million matrics will start the most important examinations of their lives. But perhaps the school closure in August was one week too many. Many pupils did not return to school. Those who do not complete matric will find it hard to get work, adding to our country’s growing and alarmingly high youth unemployment rate. Covid-19 has created another lost generation in South Africa.

I start today with congratulations: Viyuonnefer von Willingh, from the picturesque town of Kylemore, is the first female principal of Klapmuts Primary. I am extremely proud of my former student. 

Finally, the matric examination is here. What looked impossible six months ago is now a reality, thanks to the hard work of teachers all over the country. 

On 4 August I wrote: “The next few weeks are going to require hard work and sacrifice by teachers. But I don’t doubt that they will rise to the challenge.” And they did. 

Prophets of doom predicting the end of the academic year did not keep in mind that most teachers still consider their task to be a calling, and execute it with passion.

Many institutions and individuals showed up to help: some made masks and donated sanitiser. Many parents and aunties made big pots of food for the learners. Many former teachers presented free lessons. 

I would like to mention my former maths teacher, Patrick Mettler. This retired school principal and maths examiner regularly shares maths tips and help on his Facebook page. Learners should visit his page to see how he tackles problems in exam papers. His knowledge and experience as a maths examiner is of great value. He and all the other benefactors deserve our thanks.

Next week, just over 1 million matrics will step up for the most important examination of their lives – the most students ever to write finals in our country’s history. 

Life Orientation and Computer Technology have already been completed and on 5 November it is the turn of the English paper. 

Learners are encouraged to make use of the Woza Matrics assistance service. It is broadcast on SABC3, on DStv channel 122, and on radio and online platforms. 

When matrics bid farewell to school on 15 December, it will be with a feeling of some relief. Their perseverance in difficult conditions will now bear fruit.

But maybe the school closure in August was one week too many. 

As a result, many learners did not return to school. It is a well-known fact that the longer children are out of school, the less the likelihood of them returning. Those who do not complete matric will find it hard to get work, which will contribute to our country’s growing and alarmingly high unemployment rate among our youth. 

Covid-19 has caused another lost generation in SA.

The cycle of poverty continues. That is why the [email protected] programme of Partners for Possibility makes so much sense to me. This NGO helps with suitable placing of matrics in jobs. It is already offered with success in 343 schools across SA and will soon be extended into Stellenbosch, Ceres and Franschhoek. 

School principals are invited to attend an information session on Partners for Possibility on 4 November at AF Louw Primary in Stellenbosch. They should contact Jessica Batts at [email protected]

I wish all matriculants a successful exam. And to our teachers: enjoy the short break. It is well deserved. DM

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