Marijuana. Picture: ISTOCK
Marijuana. Picture: ISTOCK

Cape Town — Drug use‚ gangsterism‚ overcrowding and lack of funding are to blame for a 3.2 percentage point reduction in the Western Cape matric pass rate.

That is according to the Western Cape education department‚ which plans to investigate the drop in the pass rate from 86% in 2016 to 82.8%.

"We’ll be doing an in-depth analysis of why the results have dropped. The MEC has asked the head of department to complete an analysis over the next couple of weeks‚" said Jessica Shelver‚ spokeswoman for education MEC Debbie Schafer.

Schafer attended the handing out of matric results at Westerford High School in Newlands‚ where a jubilant crowd of former matrics‚ including Schafer’s twin daughters Alyssa and Caitlin‚ squealed at the sight of their results.

They were entitled to celebrate as the school celebrated a 100% pass rate.

Outgoing head girl Siphosethu Xamlashe said the year had not been without challenges, including changes in hair and appearance rules and "transformation".

"It wasn’t an easy year; it was a challenging year because there was so much change at Westerford going on. The student body depended on me to be a good student leader and represent them on a board level‚" said Xamlashe.

Despite this she achieved distinctions in all her subjects through what she says was striking a balance between her responsibilities as head prefect and her studies.

Her mother‚ Nobuntu‚ said she felt as though she had been through matric alongside her daughter. "She did very well because the school has always been here to support them."

Shelver said the province was able to build only eight schools a year but the annual influx of pupils from other provinces amounted to 25‚000.

"Each year we receive 20‚000 to 25‚000 learners from other provinces without concomitant funding from national government‚ which means that we are left to make up that shortfall‚" she said.

"Over the last three years we have had to make up R1.4bn to pay for these additional learners. To provide for these learners we have had to take away from other areas."

As a result‚ class sizes were increasing‚ placing more stress on pupils and teachers. "It isn’t possible to teach a big class a good-quality education.

"We are running additional training courses at the Cape Teacher Leadership Institute, where we teach teachers how to deal with larger classrooms‚ and we are providing them with assistants that don’t cost as much as teachers do‚" she said.

The department believed socioeconomic factors had also affected pupils’ performances.

Shelver said among the 700 primary and high school pupils tested for substances in 2017, 67% had tested positive‚ mainly for dagga. The pupils are recommended for testing by school principals, based on their behaviour.

"Obviously it’s very difficult to teach learners that are under the influence of a substance‚" said Shelver‚ adding that gangsterism was also a problem in the Western Cape.

"Gangsterism has a huge impact on a teacher’s well-being and a learner’s well-being and their ability to study. They live in communities that are rife with gangsterism and we also have to look at the impact this has on our results‚" she said.