A zero pass rate for disgraced school

06 January 2019 - 00:01 By PREGA GOVENDER
Image: Thinkstock Images/Getty Images

A school implicated in a massive group copying scandal in 2014 was one of 12 in SA to record a zero percent pass rate in last year's matric exams.

None of the 18 pupils at Mpikayizekanye Secondary in rural KwaMbono, about 10km from Tugela Ferry in KwaZulu-Natal, passed.

The school is one of nine in KZN that had a zero pass rate; the three others are in Limpopo. A total of 85 schools countrywide had pass rates between zero and 19.9%, down from 104 in 2017.

A total of 167 pupils at Mpikayizekanye were implicated in group copying in 2014 and initial investigations found 107 pupils were implicated in cheating in accounting,119 in English, 15 in life sciences, and 108 each in maths, business studies and economics.

Meanwhile, the department of basic education has attributed last year's improved matric pass rate of 78.2% to the quality tuition pupils received during holidays.

Basic education director-general Mathanzima Mweli, who made more than 300 visits to districts in all nine provinces last year, said he saw a huge investment made by Gauteng in special camps for pupils.

"I visited more than 50 special camps in Gauteng and the focus has been on supporting struggling learners. Provinces that invest in supporting struggling learners . automatically those provinces' [pass rates] go up."

Gauteng emerged as the country's top performer after notching up an 87.9% pass rate, followed by the Free State with 87.5%.

Mweli said he saw matrics in the Free State and in Vhembe in Limpopo being kept at school to study day and night from September until the end of the exams. "Governing bodies would organise mattresses and mothers would cook for learners while the fathers would provide security at school."

The department said the vacation school programme was the biggest pupil support intervention in the provinces. "Provinces provided needs-based support to targeted groups of learners, including progressed learners, learners at risk and moderate and high achievers," it said in its exam report.

Commenting on Gauteng's top performance, basic education minister Angie Motshekga said premier David Makhura and education MEC Panyaza Lesufi "have really put their hearts into education".

Nationally, aside from the improvement in the matric pass rate, the number of schools recording a 100% pass rate jumped from 314 in 2017 to 351 last year.

Some of the other highlights include:

  •  An improvement in the performance of seven of the nine provinces, with only the Northern Cape and Western Cape recording a drop in the pass rate;
  •  An increase in the number of pupils achieving admission to bachelor's studies, from 28.7% in 2017 to 33.6% last year;
  •  84,900 of those admitted to bachelor's studies come from quintile 1, 2 and 3 schools, which are the poorest, compared to 76,599 from quintile 4 and 5 schools;
  •  1,961 of the quintile 1, 2 and 3 schools achieved a pass rate above 80%;
  •  20,122, or 60.2%, of the progressed pupils who wrote all seven subjects obtained a National Senior Certificate; and
  •  All 75 districts scored above 50%.

Though admitting their strategy to assist progressed pupils last year had been inadequate, Free State education MEC Tate Makgoe said he was "super excited" with the province's 87.5% pass rate.

"Despite being a small province with a lack of resources and 90% of schools in the province being no-fee schools, to come out very close to Gauteng is still a very superb performance."

He said primary schools needed more support, to reduce the number of progressed pupils. "I think the progressed learners [issue] is a problem in our system because there are too many."

His Eastern Cape counterpart, Mlungisi Mvoko, said the department's 70% pass rate target last year "pushed" schools to improve their performances. "There were also a lot of winter schools, weekend classes and camps, and all those efforts bore fruit. Principals were called and had to make some commitment in terms of improving the results, and we can see that improvement."

But Western Cape education MEC Debbie Schäfer questioned the way the pass rate was determined. She said that progressed pupils, who opted to write the exams in November last year and June this year through a system known as the multiple exam opportunity, were not used in the calculation of last year's pass rate.

"I am not a mathematician but if you have far fewer people writing the exams then they [the provinces] will obviously get a higher percentage pass rate."

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