The Free State Education Department has dedicated its highest past rate for the 2020 matric results to 66 educators who succumbed to coronavirus-related complications. The province has the highest pass rate of 85.1% in the country.

In 2019, the Free State obtained the highest pass rate in the country at 88.4%. Provincial Head of the Department  Tshoarelo Malakoane says the positive outcome is a result of a commitment by teachers, learners, and school management teams.

“When you look at sacrifice our learners and teachers made, they can only humble you. You can only have goosebumps. I have thought it will even be worse but when you look at their tenacity, how we stuck to the game plan, how well we monitored ourselves and made sure we held ourselves to account.  I knew and also by sheer commitment of our district management teams,  school management, principals,  our teachers as well as subject advisors.”

Despite an 8.3 percentage points drop in the Eastern Cape matric results, over half of the 68.1% who passed their exams achieved bachelor passes. The cherry on the cake was that Pearson High pupil, Reynhardt Buys, walked off with the top spot in the quintal level five section of the 2020 matric exams.

“I’ve always been a hard worker, in every class, I’ve always put my all into it because I knew it would improve my marks and help me achieve better in the end. So, I put commitment to all my work,” says Buys.

Buys says he is going to take long rest and take-in his achievement:

Simamnkele Bhongo from Xolilizwe Senior Secondary School in Nqadu scooped third place in quintal two. Bhongo has attributed his success to hard work.

“It’s all about perseverance, hard work, and absolute dedication and determination to your schoolwork, all the time.”

The Western Cape has achieved a 79.9% pass rate.

Western Cape MEC Deborah Anne Schafer says although they are disappointed by the drop  of 2.4% points, they are pleased with the learners’ performance in maths: 

2020 an extremely difficult year 

In Mpumalanga, some of the top matric achievers have described the 2020 academic year as extremely difficult because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The learners came up with new strategies to study as they lost class time while the country was on lockdown.

Breakdown of 2020 matric results:

The learners joined the announcement of the matric results by Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga through an online video link.

Some learners are from rural schools in the Nkomazi and Albert Luthuli Local Municipality.

“There would only be a limited number of learners in class and we couldn’t have extra classes. We also tried to study online which was very difficult,” says one of the learners.

Meanwhile, the Northern Cape Education MEC, Zolile Monakali says they had hoped to achieve a better 2020 matric pass rate than the 66% recorded. The province’s pass rate is the lowest of all the provinces. This is a drop of 10.5 percentage points from a 76.5% pass rate of 2019.

“Of course we were hoping to do better, and serve a target above the national average. However, we remain grateful for what our educators and learners were able to achieve, under very difficult circumstances.  We will continue to support our learners that fell short of getting the minimum requirements, in order for them to ultimately pass.”

Unions pleasantly surprised

Teacher unions have also reacted to the pass rate. The South African Teachers’ Union (SAOU) says the Class of 2020 pass rate is better than was initially expected and it has left them pleasantly surprised.

Union executive officer, Chris Klopper, says monuments should be erected for the teachers who performed beyond the call of duty to prepare learners and provide them with the necessary confidence to enter the exam rooms, despite the pandemic.

He however raised concern about the decreasing numbers of learners taking accountancy and maths.

“We are concerned about the following subjects, accountancy that the number of learners is down, only 95 000 learners wrote accountancy. Maths, the number of candidates are down by 15 000 learners, and physical science the number of learners are also down by about 7 000.”

The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) has also welcomed the outcome of the matric pass rate for public schools.

Sadtu General Secretary, Mugwena Maluleke, says the 5% points drop in the pass rate compared to 2019 did not come as a surprise.

“We are aware of the decline and therefore it was not unexpected given the fact that we had uncertainty around the virus. We had a lockdown that affected a number of learners who did not have additional resources for them to be able to study from home. So, clearly, they were going to lag behind but we want to appreciate that finally they were able to write and we congratulate them.”

The real pass rate much lesser 

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has congratulated the class of 2020 for achieving a pass rate of 76.2% despite the massive challenges of the COVID 19 pandemic but the party says the real pass rate is much lower than claimed by Basic Education.

The DA says in a statement that Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga is not acknowledging the real pass rate of 44.1%.

The DA says it arrives at this figure by comparing the number of learners who enrolled in 2018 to the number who wrote and passed matric in 2020. The party has accused Basic Education of whitewashing the matric results to mask severe systemic failures it has failed to address over the years.

The 2020 National Senior Certificate results briefing: