South African Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)
Durban - The Educators Union of South Africa (EUSA) wants answers from the Department of Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, on what happened to the 288065 pupils who were registered for matric last year, but never wrote the exams.

According to the union, the department had over one million Grade 12 candidates at the beginning of the year, 800800 were registered, but only 512735 wrote the final exams. The union understood some may have died or dropped out during the year, but felt the number was too big to ignore.

Sphiwe Mpungose, EUSA general secretary, was concerned that Motshekga only spoke about the number that registered to write the exams and those who wrote, but did not explain the large gap.

“We deserve to know where the others (288065) disappeared to.”

He called for the rejection of the statistics Motshekga announced, saying this large number were victims of the modularisation programme, where a Grade 11 pupil gets a condoned pass into Grade 12, and in March is placed in the same programme as progressed. Introduced in 2016, the programme allowed pupils to take three subjects one year and three the following year.

“These pupils find themselves in limbo. They get pushed into Grade 12 when they are not ready and are then told they cannot write the full matric exam. There’s no follow-up after that. Nobody cares. The minister, by keeping these statistics a secret, did not disclose whether this is still a viable programme or not,” said Mpungose.

Ministerial spokesperson Troy Martens said the department was not ignoring those who did not write, adding that modularisation was a way of dealing with the problem

“The whole idea is to help them succeed. No one is throwing them away, off the system,” she said.

Mpungose said any education system that was properly managed would have indicators of any untoward behaviour.

“We want to remind the minister that schooling is 13 years in the country, which is ample time to remedy a pupil’s progress. What is the department’s plan to counter this deficiency that made 288065 pupils vanish into thin air?”

Martens said the criteria used by schools to identify pupils who were not ready to write the exam were clear.

“Their parents are called in to discuss the matter and a common understanding and agreement is reached between the parents, pupils and the school. We had a huge drop-out rate in the past at senior phase; the modularisation programme is addressing that drop-out rate,” she said.

Daily News