Picture: PETER MOGAKI
Picture: PETER MOGAKI

I would like to congratulate the achievements of the matric class of 2018 and thank the principals and teachers of Gauteng for their dedication and unflinching commitment to ensuring our learners have the best possible chance of a successful future.

However, what lies beneath the cosmetic pass rate of 87.9% is the reality of students who did not reach Grade 10 in the expected time or have dropped out of the failing education system. Taking this into account, Gauteng’s real pass rate sits at 48.3%.

This is in stark contrast to the inflated and skewed figure presented by education MEC Panyaza Lesufi. Youth languishing at home or in lower grades than expected due to the failing education system in Gauteng, certainly do not share Lesufi’s joy.

Furthermore, of the 172,507 learners who were enrolled in Grade 10 in Gauteng in 2018, only 55% sat for their matric exams: what happened to the remaining 77,637 learners who slipped through the education net? What do their futures look like? Lesufi and the ANC have failed the youth of Gauteng.

I have seen first-hand the effects of the constant downward shifts in the subject pass rates, the lack of monitoring of and evaluation systems for teacher performance, the lack of clear policy direction, union interference, sex- and cash-for-jobs scandals, and the absence of leadership in our schools. For every school that “defied the odds” this year, there are many more that failed in providing our learners with access to education, and hope for a better future.

Still, despite a number of interventions, not all our schools have access to the same resources, resulting in some schools being oversubscribed, and others standing empty. This results in crowded classrooms and more pressured learning environments. These conditions disadvantage our learners in a multitude of ways, which result in an unequal playing field with some learners having to fight that much harder for a job.

After all, a number, such as a pass rate, means nothing if it is not underpinned by a quality, world-class education that gives our learners the required level of verbal and numerical literacy demanded by our province’s fast-paced and dynamic economy. Every single student is a valuable resource that we cannot afford to lose.

So, while there are many reasons to celebrate today, let us be realistic about the crisis we face, and what is needed from us to ensure all our learners are provided with the knowledge and skills to ensure fair and equal access to job opportunities. We owe it to our children.

• Msiminga is the mayor of Tshwane and the DA’s candidate for premier of Gauteng.