The Democratic Alliance (DA) in the Free State congratulates all 2020 matriculants who obtained the National Senior Certificates (NSC) in a very trying year. We would like to wish all matric graduates well for the future. A special note of thanks should also be extended to all the dedicated parents, teachers, school principals, and departmental officials in the province for their commitment, dedication and hard work towards educating our youth in preparation for adult life.
The official Free State matric pass rate of 85.1% is the highest matric pass rate of any province in South Africa. Whilst this is a noble achievement, it represents a decrease from the 88.4% recorded in 2019. It is also noteworthy that in 2018 there were 56,101 learners registered for grade 10 in the Free State, and of these only 23,779 learners passed in 2020, which represents a real pass rate of 42.38%. This means that more than half of possible matric learners dropped out of the basic school system relegating half a generation to difficulty in finding employment and further entrenching a cycle of poverty and human misery in the Free State.
Whilst we celebrate with those who passed their NSC exams, we also have a duty to acknowledge and recognise where there is room for improvement in our basic education system in the Free State.
The provincial government continues to drag its feet regarding the payment of subsidies for scholarly textbooks and payments to contractors for scholarly transport. This means that many learners have the unwanted burden of starting the academic year late, or may not be able to attend school at all if contractors who provide transport to learners every day are not paid.
The provincial government has also earmarked the closure of many schools in rural farming communities, such as Leeuwrivier Mills Farm Primary School in Tweespruit and Niekerksvlei Primary School in Dewetsdorp. These schools play an important role in providing education to the most isolated and vulnerable of our communities.
There remain approximately 156 schools in the Free State that still have pit latrines and water supply problems. The lack of proper ablution and hygiene facilities makes the washing of hands and observance of Covid-19 protocols during the pandemic difficult for both staff and learners.
Many learners in the Free State are also dependent on the school feeding system and rely on these institutions for food in their stomachs. It is disheartening to note that there are many learners who are not receiving their meals as part of the Department of Education’s school feeding scheme and who therefore find it difficult to concentrate during classes.
With this in mind, the DA wishes to commend all learners who despite the many hardships still experienced in the Free State have remained resilient and battled on. This kind of determination exhibited by matriculants, to yet again be recognised as the top performing matriculant group in South Africa, is the same determination with which our provincial government should return the favour by remedying that which leaves our education system vulnerable.
The DA believes that there is no justice until every learner in the Free State is able to have the necessary textbooks, transport, decent ablution facilitates and food required to have a dignified learning experience in the province.