Education MEC Mthandeni Dlungwane. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng / African News Agency / ANA
How KZN districts performed:

uMgungundlovu 81.51%

Amajuba 80.51%

uMkhanyakude 77.01%

Pinetown 75.51%

uMlazi 75.48%

Ugu 73.08%

uThukela 72.85%

King Cetshwayo 71.64%

Harry Gwala 66.83%

uMzinyathi 65.01%

Ilembe 64.91%

Zululand 64.83%

Overall KZN 72.8%

DURBAN - KWAZULU-Natal’s best-resourced education district, uMlazi, has been surpassed by four rural districts in terms of performance.

The uMlazi district, which covers suburban and township schools to the north, south and east of Durban, had a 75.48% pass rate this year. It also managed only nine schools with 100% pass rates, among them independent schools.

The uMgungundlovu district in Pietermaritzburg and surroundings was the best-performing region with 81.51%, followed by Amajuba (greater Newcastle) with 80.51%, uMkhanyakude at 77.01% and Pinetown districts with 75.51%.

KZN Education MEC Mthandeni Dlungwane said uMlazi was not realising its potential. It scored 72.64% in 2015, 74.4% in 2016 and 75.48% last year.

“uMlazi has the advantage of infrastructure, with all the necessary resources. It should do better because of its location,” he said.

Professor Labby Ramrathan of the UKZN School of Education said the other districts were doing something right. “There is a strong emphasis on rural education and access and opportunities to higher education. People are becoming more aware of the opportunities.

“The pupils are doing much of the hard work. They are taking responsibility for their education and exploiting opportunities available to them,” he said.

KZN had 85 schools with 100% passes in 2016. Last year that figure rose to 109 but with only 20 coming from schools in the Pinetown and uMlazi districts.

Said Ramrathan: “Schools that have a 100% pass rate boost their image. Once they achieve that, they attract good pupils, but you cannot sustain it.

“Peak emphasis means something has to give. Schools emphasise a range of things and academic performance is not the only thing they measure,” he said.

He added that discipline at schools needed to be addressed.

“That is a big issue and is why the other provinces seem to have more positive attitudes towards  study. There are many distractions, along with factors such as learning attitudes and lifestyle issues,” he said, adding youngsters were concerned about popularity and fashion.

“The increase in the use of cellphones for social media is a huge issue, and the kind of social networking that is taking away from quality time that should be used for studying.

“South Africa is a highly competitive environment. You have to work hard to get into your career of choice. It is difficult to fathom why youngsters do not understand that. Could it be because of the growing middle class that makes them comfortable with the luxuries they enjoy at home?” he said.

Meanwhile, KZN had five zero-pass schools in the exams last year.

Dlungwane signalled a warning to those principals: “Principals will be made to account for the dismal outcome. We are coming for them.”

KZN education head Dr Enock Nzama said the schools fell in the non-viable category because their enrolments were low. In 2016, KZN had seven zero-pass schools.

Support all round

“They are new schools. When they were introduced to us we realised that some seem to fall in the category of non-viable schools because of small numbers. There is a programme of closing some of those schools, the transformation of the schooling system programme. It targets schools that have lost children. We will conduct an investigation to find out how they ended up in that situation,” he said.

Ramrathan said the issue of overcrowded classrooms needed to be resolved to provide the most conducive learning environment in KZN schools and called on the department to address discipline issues.

He called on pupils to go the extra mile to attain the best results and called on parents to lend support.

“When parents become more involved there is an increase in performance. Get involved, ask them, What have you learned today? You don’t have to go to school and influence school policy, but show interest,” he said.