Western Cape MEC for Education Debbie Schafer addressed the top performing grade 12 students of 2018 at Leeuwenhof. Pictures: Armand Hough / African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - Some of them overcame the most horrendous adversities imaginable, from being molested, raped, burned and suffering from leukaemia, yet they outperformed their peers to achieve top honours in their matric results.

On Thursday, these heroes were among the top achievers honoured by the MEC for Education, Debbie Schäfer, at a ceremony at Leeuwenhof, the official residence of Premier Helen Zille.

Schäfer celebrated the improvement last year’s Grade 12 class achieved in the National Senior Certificate maths and physical science exams.

The class of 2018 scored an 81.5% pass rate, compared with 82.8% in 2017. In maths, the province achieved the highest pass rate, increasing from 73.9% in 2017 to 76%.

The physical science pass rate is also up from 72% in 2017 to 79.5% in 2018.

Schäfer has emphasised the importance of these subjects for the country’s economic growth and to fill the scarce skills gaps.

She also said last year was a very challenging year for matriculants.

“Last year, had been a challenging one for many reasons. We had the drought to contend with, which forced us to redirect crucial funding for infrastructure to ensure schools were as prepared as possible for water shortages,” Schafer said.

She said many pupils also live in areas that saw an increase in “politically motivated” protest action, which no doubt had an effect on their schools and on their ability to concentrate on studying for the exams.

Schäfer also took a swipe at the media for reporting that the province’s pass rate had dropped from just over 84% when it was actually 82.8%.

“I am frustrated because what they are doing is taking the figure for 2017 excluding the progressive pupils and comparing it to the figure for 2018 with the progressive learners. Obviously, one is going to be higher and one is going to be much lower and I am not sure if its ignorance or them not doing their jobs,” she said.

This is Schäfer’s last term as education MEC as the DA gears up for the May election.

Schäfer has experienced her fair share of criticism, most recently the passing of the School Education Amendment Bill which allows for the sale and consumption of alcohol on school premises, and being served with papers advising her of Uitsig High School taking her decision to close last year to the Supreme Court of Appeal.

“I am very proud of what I have achieved. I believe I can look back over the last five years with a sense of accomplishment.

“We have been through a lot. We recently passed the education bill which is going to see a school evaluation authority that will go to every school that will evaluate them.”

@MarvinCharles17

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Cape Argus