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Fail the test, pass the grade

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Johannesburg - One out of 120 for a class test and 12 out of 150 for a final exam. These are some of the results captured on the exam scripts of pupils from Thubelihle Junior Secondary School in Moroka, Soweto.

These marks, however, are not in sync with those reflected on the pupils’ reports.

Teachers at the school, which offers grades 8 and 9, are accused of inflating the pupils’ marks when they capture them in the reports and subsequently letting children pass, despite them not achieving the required pass mark.

During a meeting held at the school at the weekend to address these and other issues, police officers and district officials had to intervene when teachers and school governing body (SGB) members were involved in a scuffle over the exam scripts.

Attempts were made to open assault cases at Moroka police station, but the charges didn’t stick.

“We came with the scripts to show them to the district officials, and some of the teachers tried to grab them from us,” said an SGB member who attended the meeting.

A letter addressed to Education MEC Barbara Creecy, where the SGB listed problems at the school, said the highest mark scored among Grade 9 pupils for maths last year was 16 percent.

According to the Department of Basic Education’s policy, maths is a core subject that a Grade 9 pupil would have to pass with no less than 40 percent to move on to the next grade.

The SGB member said despite 16 percent being the highest score among last year’s Grade 9 cohort, none of the pupils are repeating the grade this year.

Scripts of tests written in March this year for the first school term show that the trend is continuing, where the marks the pupils obtained during class tests are not in line with those in their reports.

“We (need) assistance by the district office on the academic development of our children… (They) are grossly underperforming,” another SGB member said.

The governing body said the pupils’ dismal performance was largely caused by teachers who arrived late at school, attended meetings during teaching time and submitted their work late - if at all - causing delays in the issuing of pupils’ reports.

The Gauteng Department of Education, however, denied that there were any problems at the school.

“The school remains stable, educators and learners are punctual, and learning and teaching are taking place. The department monitors the school daily,” the department’s spokesman, Gershwin Chuenyane, said on Tuesday.

He said the department had issued a letter of a “precautionary transfer” to the school’s principal, who now reports to the district office and not the school.

According to Captain Mpande Khoza, of Moroka police station, the principal and the school’s former SGB chair are facing corruption charges over the alleged misuse of the school’s money totalling more than R1 million.

“The case is being investigated by the Commercial Crime Unit,” he said.

 

*There are serious consequences in pushing pupils through grades:

According to the Department of Basic Education’s policy on grade retention, a pupil can repeat a grade only once per phase.

This means if a child is in the senior phase (grades 7 to 9), for example, they can be failed only once during these three years, regardless of their performance.

It’s this policy, among other factors, that led to the peak in dropout rates at the further education and training (grades 10 to 12) phase.

It’s mostly pupils who can’t cope academically and those who have been “passing” despite not attaining the skills they were supposed to have in previous grades who tend to drop out at the final stages of their schooling career.

This trend is reflected in the fact that the number of pupils who sat for last year’s matric exams was less than half of the number pupils who had enrolled for Grade 1 12 years prior.

nontobeko.mtshali@inl.co.za

The Star


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