Durban - “Lethargy” and “incompetence” will not be tolerated this year, KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC Peggy Nkonyeni has warned underperforming principals and teachers.

“People who are a misfit in our education system must either show their interest to learn… or voluntarily leave, or we will push them out,” she said this week as she released the provincial matric results.

KZN’s pass rate improved by 4.3 percentage points from the previous year, to 77.4 percent.

Her department would be paying particular attention to those schools in KZN with a pass rate of under 35 percent, and would be holding the staff to account by making use of the South African Schools Act, she said.

In the department’s technical report on the matric results, there are 83 schools with pass rates of below 35 percent.

Elaborating on Nkonyeni’s statement, head of department Nkosinathi Sishi said that, according to the act, the principal of a poorly performing school could be compelled to present him with a turnaround strategy.

“Failing which, the principal may be rendered incapable. The schools who achieved pass rates of under 35 percent have already been issued with letters,” Sishi said.

He said that “further action” would be taken if the principal concerned could not provide a “good explanation”, but he would not say whether this included suspension or axing.

In recent years, it has been the habit of the department to launch a matric results improvement strategy as soon as the pass rate is released, such as “Operation Hammer” or “Operation Scaffold”.

However, this year consolidation was the buzzword, Sishi said.

“We need to appoint more subject advisers and more circuit managers. We will work better with teachers’ unions, to have 201 school days free of problems.

“We will just arrive at schools and say: ‘Last year you got an 80 percent pass rate; this year you will get 100 percent. Tell us how you will do it. We will ask to see their plan (in writing).”

According to Sishi, department officials would be paying more visits to more schools than before, to support teachers and principals as best they could.

Meanwhile, the SA Democratic Teachers Union, the largest teachers’ union in the province (and the country), said it deserved much of the credit for the improved results.

“With 65 000 members, we form the base of any success or failure. If people want to blame us for failure, they must also blame us for success,” Mbuyiseni Mathonsi, Sadtu’s KZN secretary, said.

Mathonsi said that this year Sadtu would be focused on improving the pass rates in certain rural districts, and in subjects such as accounting and business studies (which were neglected because of the emphasis on maths and science).

* In Wednesday’s edition, we reported that Star College Girls’ High pupil Ayesha Abdul Ahmed, who was among the top 10 in the province, obtained eight distinctions. This is incorrect. Ayesha obtained nine distinctions. The error is regretted.

The Mercury