File picture: Henk Kruger/ANA/African News Agency
File picture: Henk Kruger/ANA/African News Agency

KZN Education Department stands firm, sets 80% matric pass target despite Covid-19 learning disruption

By Sne Masuku Time of article published Oct 22, 2020

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Durban - THE KwaZulu-Natal Education Department is standing firm on its 80% matric pass rate target, despite concerns from teachers’ unions and an education expert that setting targets is unrealistic this year, a year in which pupils were away from the classroom for months due to the national lockdown occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The target was first announced by Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu earlier this year and he affirmed it during his June budget speech.

The department was confident that its interventions since schools reopened would pay off. It had faith in the hard work put in by teachers to ensure the curriculum was completed and trusted the dedication shown by the matric class of 2020 to make the target a reality.

Department spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said during the stricter lockdown period, the department had implemented strategies to ensure that classes continued virtually and on radio, and boot camps were also arranged.

“The feedback we are getting from teachers indicates that despite the Covid-19 challenges, they have been able to cover the curriculum and the pupils are very committed.”

For the first time in the history, the province achieved a pass rate of over 80% last year (81.3%), an increase from 76.2% in 2018.

The province also achieved an increase in the number of Bachelor’s passes from 38573 in 2018 to 44153 in 2019, as well as an increase in diploma passes from 31222 in 2018 to 32696 in 2019.

While the department expected the matric class of 2020 to achieve nothing less than an 80% pass rate, University of KwaZulu-Natal education expert Professor Labby Ramrathan felt that the idea of setting targets for 2020, due to the disruptive nature of the school year, would add stress and demands on pupils, teachers and school leaders.

“I think it is unwise to set any targets for this year. This year must be considered an exceptional year and should not be used as any benchmarking for comparative issues. It is unusual and there are many factors that have impacted on pupils, teachers and schooling,” said Ramrathan.

National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA (Naptosa) spokesperson Thirona Moodley said teachers had done their best with extra classes during the Covid-19 pandemic, and were optimistic that the matrics would do them proud under the circumstances.

“However, Naptosa does not believe that the setting of pass rate targets does anything to assist. What benchmark can be used to set targets for a year such as this? This year has been an abnormal year for all. Grade 12 pupils came face-to-face with their teachers for 11 years and, unfortunately, in their final school year, they were forced to do much self-studying, which is new to them,” she said.

SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) provincial secretary Nomarashiya Caluza said they were proud of the work done by teachers in limited time to finish the curriculum, but believed that setting targets amid the Covid-19 pandemic would be tricky.

“Pupils and teachers will go through this examination with uncertainty. Teachers did their best. We are proud of the efforts teachers have put into the academic year. It remains to be seen how the class of 2020 will perform,” she said.

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