Matric results reflect resilience and individual responsibility for one’s success

THE top achievers of Class of 2023 are honoured by Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga during a ceremony in Fairlands, Johannesburg, last week. Image: Timothy Bernard Independent Newspapers.

THE top achievers of Class of 2023 are honoured by Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga during a ceremony in Fairlands, Johannesburg, last week. Image: Timothy Bernard Independent Newspapers.

Published Jan 22, 2024


MINISTER of Basic Education Angie Motshekga announced the 2023 matric results on Thursday last week.

Her excitement was understandable with an 82.9% pass rate result, having improved from 80.1% in the 2022 results. Considering that the matric results have been on an increasing trajectory under her tenure, this result is a reflection of her performance on the portfolio.

As often the case every year when the matric results are released, debates ensue about the quality of the basic education that our children are receiving, especially those from vulnerable communities and poor areas of our society.

Debates about whether the pass rate is a true reflection of competent young minds being developed or the results are a reflection of a standard that has been lowered to give an impression of success. With reports such as those from organisations like GroundUp, an organisation that monitors and publishes how government is faring in providing the basic human rights enshrined in the Constitution stating that South Africa has a literacy crisis, our children are far behind in learning to read and it’s getting worse because the issue has not been attended to by the Basic Education Department.

GroundUp base their conclusions on a 2030 report from the Reading Panel, which found that 82% of Grade 4 children cannot read for meaning and most children entering grade two do not know the alphabet.

According to debates based on this information, the illiteracy problem is simply passed on from foundation level, those who struggle too much simply drop out along the way and the matric pass rates simply exclude and ignore them, while those who go through and eventually get to matric are of low competency quality and the system lets them go through and pass matric because the pass level and standard is lowered.

These could be good debates to ensue and deserve attention to resolve to ensure that the quality of education received by our children is impactful and helping to produce the kinds of adults that will be productive and assist the country meaningfully to end the cycle of poverty and exclusion.

These must be given a space to be ventilated and resolved effectively. However, the matric level standard is a standard that we have adopted to mark the end of a child’s basic schooling years.

The curriculum and methods of testing competency have been agreed on and adopted, and therefore, this is the standard we must use to monitor progress. The goalpost cannot change when we see progress on this standard and argue that the results should not be celebrated. The results must be celebrated in the context of what they mean and against the standard we have adopted.

If one looks at the intended purpose of a matric, it is to equip learners from all walks of life with the knowledge, skills and values crucial for self-fulfilment and meaningful participation in society as citizens of a free country.

The examination, therefore, tests whether a young person is ready to transition into the world of work or higher learning with competencies to be independent and self-directed.

Hearing the stories of high-performing learners across the country, from rural poor schools to well-resourced schools in urban areas on what it took for them to perform at the level at which they performed, one could not help but note the similarities in character.

For instance, a principal from a high-performing school, Mmanere Secondary School at Chebeng village in Ga-Matlale, Caroline Maitisa attributed the success to determination and discipline, despite challenges of lack of resources, because the learners were self-driven and at some point held camps to study at school without any supervision.

TOP national achiever Jessica Niemand from Woodhill College. | Supplied

The overall top achiever nationally, Jessica Niemand, highlighted the value of supportive parents who started the journey of monitoring her performance early on in primary school with balanced meals, sports and a resourced school. But what eventually propelled her success was her relentless pursuit of excellence. Her inner desire to be the best and consistent improvement on areas of her lesser strength.

While the debates unfold about the quality of our basic education, let’s not lose sight on these human qualities that drive success and find ways to not only celebrate them, but also replicate them.

It is particularly noteworthy to highlight that amongst the top 10 performing schools from poor areas in Gauteng, seven are led by women principals.

These female principals from Raymond Mhlaba Secondary School in Tshepisong, Letsibogo Girls, Lofentse Girls, Kelekitso Secondary in Meadowlands, George Khosa in Dobsonville, Tlhathlogang in Soweto and three secondaries in Dieploot Township; have demonstrated consistent excellent curriculum management skills by making the best out of limited resources. They consistently serve beyond the call of duty in this environment riddled with social ills.

These are the human traits of resilience and determination that the matric results should remind us of and help us zoom in on them to take inspiration that we all have the abilities to transform our lives and those of those around us.

Economic growth, inclusion and transformation can be realised if we all choose to do our part.

SIBONGILE Vilakazi is the president of the Black Management Forum.

Dr Sibongile Vilakazi is president of the Black Management Forum. | BUSINESS REPORT