Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - METRO - SHERLIN BARENDS

TRIM and lift. That’s what we do with our fig­ures in Jan­uary.

See­ing Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Angie Mot­shekga an­nounce the ma­tric re­sults is like watch­ing your best friend go on a first date. You know your friend is wear­ing a tight, tan un­der­gar­ment (that trims some parts and lifts oth­ers), yet her date firmly be­lieves she has grav­ity-de­fy­ing breasts and but­tocks.

There are those who judge fig­ures at face value, and cel­e­brate what’s proudly put on dis­play, while oth­ers know that the truth is often hid­den.

Mot­shekga an­nounced a pass rate of 78.2% for the class of 2018, up 3.1 per­cent­age points from last year’s 75.1%.

How­ever, some ar­gue that the “real” ma­tric pass rate is much lower.

Se­nior re­searcher at Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity’s De­part­ment of Eco­nom­ics, Nicholas Spaull, says that “the ma­tric pass rate seen in iso­la­tion is mis­lead­ing”.

He ex­plains that “the widely-re­ported ma­tric pass rate is just the num­ber of full-time matrics pass­ing di­vided by the num­ber of full-time matrics writ­ing (400761/ 512700 = 78%)”.

It does not take into con­sid­er­a­tion the thou­sands of stu­dents who dropped out of school along the way.

Ac­cord­ing to Spaull, around 1 mil­lion learn­ers were reg­is­tered for Grade 1 in 2007. How­ever, only 51% of them wrote ma­tric (full-time) in 2018, and only 40% passed. So while the “nor­mal” ma­tric pass rate is 78%, the “through­put ma­tric pass rate from Grade 1 is around 40-43%”, he says.

Civil rights or­gan­i­sa­tion Equal Ed­u­ca­tion’s Leanna Jansen-Thomas is con­cerned about the high drop-put level. “We can­not for­get about the chil­dren who do not get to ma­tric,” she says.

Jansen-Thomas adds that there isn’t suf­fi­cient data about where those who leave school pre­ma­turely end up. Still, Spaull says they are “al­most cer­tainly un­em­ployed”.

So what re­ally hap­pened to the more than 400 000 stu­dents who started Grade 1 in 2007, but didn’t ma­tric­u­late with the class of 2018? What do their lives look like to­day? Why did they leave?

Ten years ago I sat on the stage with the rest of Luck­hoff High School’s ma­tric­u­lants. We wore white shirts with iconic car­toons drawn on them. Mine sported the Pow­er­puff Girls: Blos­som, But­ter­cup and Bub­bles.

You didn’t let just any­one pen a hand­writ­ten in­spi­ra­tional quote on your shirt. Only friends and your favourite teach­ers were asked to leave their per­ma­nent mark on the last school shirt you’d ever wear.

“A smooth sea never made a skill­ful sailor,” reads one of the mes­sages writ­ten in blue per­ma­nent marker.

Many pic­tures were taken that day. In one I’m seated next Na­dia Thys, who just re­newed a con­tract to teach English in the UEA, and Kim Isaacs-Hen­dricks, who got the hy­phen­ated sur­name when she mar­ried her long-time boyfriend last year.

But what of those who never got up on stage that day? Like the boy in my Grade 6 class who dreamt of be­ing part of the team that would help de­velop South Africa’s first fly­ing car. The then 12-year-old wasn’t the best at maths, but he was good with his hands.

A lot of ef­fort is made to ex­pose chil­dren to ca­reers that re­quire ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion. Doc­tors, lawyers, en­gi­neers and ac­coun­tants are re­spected and revered. Chil­dren’s unique skills and in­ter­ests are often over­looked.

“Do not judge a fish by it’s abil­ity to climb a tree,” read an­other hand­writ­ten mes­sage, writ­ten in red.

Sadly our schools are often not equipped to ful­fil the holis­tic needs of our chil­dren. So they drop out…

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