DESPITE a turbulent start to the academic year, Eastern Cape Education MEC Mandla Makupula was yesterday confident the embattled province’s matric pupils would yield an impressive matric pass rate and possibly even improve on last year’s 58.3%.
The department, which was placed under administration in March, had a rocky start to the year as a result of:
The axing of thousands of temporary teachers who were only reinstated in March;
Non-delivery of stationery and workbooks to the province’s poorer schools until June;
A suspended pupil transport system which was eventually handed over to the Transport Department and restored last month, albeit under a legal cloud; and
The suspended school nutrition programme which resumed in June.
Makupula said the national government’s much-needed administrative intervention – which resulted in the resolution of these problems – had come just in time to ensure the negative impact on this year’s matric class was minimal. The department hoped for a 65% pass rate this year.
“We are confident we attended to these challenges in time and schools have been functioning very well,” he said. “We are not expecting miracles, but if we could manage an improved pass rate last year with the World Cup and the public servants’ strike, then we can do it again.”
Makupula was in Port Elizabeth yesterday helping the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality and Kraft Foods hand over renovated classrooms to five schools around the city.
The province’s education stakeholders, however, were not as optimistic as Makupula, saying an improved pass rate was “pie in the sky” for the beleaguered department.
Education expert Susan van Rensburg said the department should not be comfortable with the fact that pupils had pulled through despite the challenges. “The department must eliminate the challenges altogether and that way we can greatly improve our pass rate,” she said.
Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools chief executive Paul Colditz said the Education Department’s resolution of the problems was too little, too late.
“One can’t expect a class to come out tops after spending the first half of the year without teachers, books and stationery,” he said. “The department is in administrative crisis and there is no rational basis for hopes of an improved pass rate.”
The DA’s spokesman on education in the Eastern Cape, Edmund van Vuuren, said despite the department’s attempts there was a big chance the pass rate would stagnate.
“We would like to achieve the 65% but right now it is unrealistic.”