Picture: THE TIMES
Picture: THE TIMES

More than 10% of students at Makukhanye Senior Secondary School in Lusikisiki are aged between 20 and 25.

Eastern Cape MEC for Education Mandla Makupula said students who were unable to cope with pure academic schooling should be compelled‚ through policy‚ to try a technical education.

Of the school’s total 1‚162 student population, 135 are above the average age for grades 10 to 12. Existing regulations stipulate that pupil who are still in the school system and "over age" because of repeating grades should not be refused continued education.

According to the Department of Basic Education’s guidelines for the promotion and progression of grade 10 to 12 pupils‚ a student cannot spend more than four years in this phase (grades 10 to 12) — meaning that a student can only repeat either grade 10 or grade 11 once‚ failing which they should be promoted to the next class even if they failed to meet the requirements for a pupil to progress to the next grade.

The progression of the student without merit is done without any guarantee that the pupil will succeed in the higher grade.

Makupula believes it is a waste of time and resources to have students who are academically challenged to be allowed to languish in the system instead of being given the chance at a technical education.

"The MEC has been advocating for the implementation of the three-stream model curriculum that allows for channeling those who lack capacity for pure academic schooling towards technical education‚" said provincial department spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima.

The department, however, says it cannot do anything about the 25-year-olds at Makukhanye who are sharing desks and classes with classmates 10 years their junior in some instances.

"In terms of national policy‚ learners who are in the school system but have become over age as a result of repeating grades may not be denied continued education at the school‚" said Mtima.

On social media‚ readers pointed out that the disdain for technical schools had influenced government policy for some time. Richard Hall said: "Unfortunately, this is too little too late. Most of the technical schools and colleges are closed or run down because apparently it was discriminatory to tell a kid who keeps failing that perhaps they’d do better working with their hands."

Zanoxolo Duncan Mbekela agreed‚ saying: "This has been my call, but you keep on closing the these technical schools."