Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has proposed that pupils would now be able to leave school in Grade 9 after obtaining a general education certificate. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - Political parties have questioned the proposal by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga that pupils would now be able to leave school in Grade 9 after obtaining a general education certificate.

But the department denied in a statement yesterday that the certificate was for leaving school.

Motshekga was addressing the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union conference in Nasrec, in Joburg, this week when she was believed to have said this.

The department said the certificate issue had been discussed in government previously.

“The general education certificate is predicated on the three-stream model which has the academic, the technical vocational pathway and the technical/occupational pathway,” said the department.

“The plan aims to send more learners into technical education.”

But parties in Parliament said it was a bad idea to encourage pupils to leave school in Grade 9.

They said the department should allow pupils to reach matric.

DA deputy spokesperson on basic education Desiree van der Walt said this was similar to when students were awarded a junior certificate in the past.

“Many learners drop out in Grade 9. This will be an incentive to at least stay until the end of Grade 9, receive a school-leaving certificate and then (be) able to enter into the Further Education Training colleges options,” said Van der Walt.

But Siphosethu Ngcobo of the IFP said there were a large number of pupils who would be leaving school in Grade 9.

There were not too many opportunities for these pupils once they leave school, he said.

“My problem is, where are you going to absorb these people? Where do you take them because already Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges are flooded by matriculants and are not coping?” Ngcobo asked.

He said TVET colleges have a backlog of more than 25000 certificates which have not been issued to students over the past nine years.

Ngcobo said this was confirmed to the portfolio committee on basic education recently.

He added that this would create problems for the country.

“The department seems to be confused. They must find a way to deal with their problems and not create this exit. They must assist learners to reach Grade 12,” said Ngcobo.

African Christian Democratic Party leader Reverend Kenneth Meshoe described this as a bad idea by the department.

He warned that this would lead to many students getting involved in criminal activities.

He said the department must conduct research on the high drop-out at schools instead of giving learners a school-leaving certificate in Grade 9.

“When it comes to education South Africa is at the bottom of the ladder on the African continent.

“To officially encourage learners to leave school in Grade 9 is a bad idea,” said Meshoe.

He called on the department to do more to find reasons for the high drop-out rate in schools.

“This is a reflection of the failure of the education system. This will continue to make our children the least educated on the continent.”

Political Bureau