Massive drop out rate in FState a concern - DA

Mariette Pittaway notes provincial dept has been under administration for two years

FS matric results should not be used to cover up departmental inefficiencies

The DA would like to congratulate all Free State matriculants who have successfully passed the National Senior Certificate (NSC) exams. We wish each and every one all the best as they progress to take up the challenges of the adult world.

We would also like to congratulate the Fezile Dabi District in the Northern Free State for being the best performing district in the province achieving a 90.2% pass rate.

Although MEC Tate Makgoe and the Free State Department of Education will boast about achieving the best matric pass rate in the country, achieving 86%, but down by 2.2% from 2016, we remain concerned that the real matric pass rate is technically almost half of that. Just over 50% of learners drop out of the schooling system between grades 10 and 11. Many of these learners will struggle to find employment in an ever shrinking economy because they lack the basic skills needed to enter the job market.

In January 2017, a total of 27 723 learners were enrolled for matric, sadly only 25 130 wrote their NSC examinations, 2 593 learners dropped out in a single year. Of the 25 130 learners, 5 288 were progressed students, this calculates to 19.1% to the official matric pass rate as announced.

Every year the DA raises concerns over the failure by the department to improve the retention rate of learners and it seems that there is little political will to improve retention rates.

The Free State Department of Education has been under provincial administration for two years now as it struggles to effectively manage its own finances. The Auditor-General (AG) noted in its 2016/17 audit outcomes report for the department that irregular expenditure of R680 million, while unauthorised expenditure totalled R249 million. The department has a bank overdraft of almost R800 million, while its financial commitments is at R1,2 billion and accruals and payables not recognised is at R431 million. The department is technically bankrupt. This severely hampers programmes of assistance to learners and teachers, while it negatively affects the functioning of schools due to the late payment of school subsidies. Should these problems be effectively addressed, the pass rate of matriculants in the province will improve substantially.

The DA has always maintained that the matric pass rate is but one indicator to assess the performance of basic education. Should one consider the high dropout rate alongside the poor quality of basic education offered, as can be seen in a decline in the ability of learners to read and understand what they read as well as in their general ability in language and numeracy skills, the trumpeting of high matric pass rates, inclusive of progressed learners, seems to be a mere attempt to paint a veneer over persisting problems within the basic education system. This is a grave injustice.

Honesty is what it will take as a start to address our basic education shortfalls, and we urge MEC Tate Makgoe not to use the matric results as an attempt to cover up his and his department’s inefficiencies.

Statement issued by Mariette Pittaway, DA MPL Free State Legislature, 5 January 2018