The Free State Department of Education says it expects the 2021 academic year to be equally challenging. The 2020 academic year was disrupted by the outbreak of the coronavirus.

The department says it is going to be a mammoth task to deal with the current Grade 12 learners as they could not complete the Grade 11 syllabus.

The Free State has obtained the highest pass rate in the country at 85.1%. This includes 44% of the bachelor’s pass rate.

Speaking at a function in Bloemfontein, Free State Education MEC, Tate Makgoe, says they are ready to navigate the 2021 academic year.

“2021 is going to very difficult, extremely difficult for us, because of the Grade 11 who are now in Grade 12. They are not fully ready for Grade 12. And therefore, I can tell you, starting this year, we have already taken and made sure that all the classes go up to Saturday because we want to close the gap of Grade 11. So, we will be doing that.”

This year’s function was scaled down and other districts joined via a video link. Marc van der Nest, a pupil from St. Andrews School in Bloemfontein, who has achieved nine distinctions, intends to pursue a degree in medicine.

“I had friends and family to support me and my teachers. I must say it made it a bit easier. I don’t think you can really achieve anything by yourself.”

For Neo Mthombeni, from the Ngwathe Secondary School, getting seven distinctions was through hard work.

“I set myself a mission and vision so that I can pursue my dreams.”

Another matric learner, Mpho Popane, from the Bartimea Special School, says she was determined to pass.

“Because I was the only girl in my class, I managed it and it gave me pressure and I also realised that I’m independent because I was learning by myself and using the internet.”

Some of the top learners will be receiving bursaries from the provincial education department: 

‘Pioneers’

University of the Free State’s Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Francis Petersen, has described the matric class of 2020 as pioneers.

Petersen says learners have defied the odds in the academic year which was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You have reached the end of a very significant period in your life, your school years – a time of unequal growth. Develop fast as a human being. As the University of Free State, we are keenly aware of the importance of these years, which is why we do not wait until you have passed through them before getting involved in your education. As many of you may know, we have various initiatives that target making a positive difference in schools all over the country. We have vested interests in schools.”