Education ‘most important weapon’ in fight against poverty


Percentage-wise, the class of 2023 achieved the highest pass rate in the history of the National Senior Certificate Examination (NSC). Not only did this group achieve the most distinctions in the history of the NSC, but also the most matric exemptions.

This means that 82.1% of learners who passed with university or diploma admission can continue their studies at tertiary education institutions this year.

Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa says this is proof that education is “learning from poverty”.

“The success of these matric learners shows the progress we have made; not only to make education more accessible, but also to make it more equal,” says Ramaphosa.

The matric examination pass rate has continuously improved over the past decade, from 78% ten years ago to 80% in 2022.

According to Ramaphosa, in all these years the government has tried to invest in and improve school infrastructure and provide learner support materials to schools in poor districts.

“In a country like the one we live in, universal access to education has by far the biggest impact in breaking the cycle of poverty,” he says.

“Therefore, the national financial aid scheme for students also helps to enable eligible young people from poor families to continue their studies.”

From the 110 top matrics from last year, 62 were beneficiaries of social grant. In 2023, matric learners receiving some form of social grant collectively achieved more than 160,000 distinctions, and more than 200,000 qualified for tertiary education.

Learners from schools that do not pay school fees made up more than 65% of the overall number of learners who passed with access to a higher certificate.

Three of the country’s most rural provinces – the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo – were responsible for 59% of the overall pass rate with distinctions.

Ramaphosa says last year’s matric learners will now continue to study further, or start looking for work.

He urged South Africans to “reward the achievements of the many young people who have successfully passed high school by making more opportunities available to them”.

“As a government, we have appealed to companies to invest in our country’s future by employing more young people, and, where possible, to do away with the requirement of previous work experience,” he says.

“I once again encourage businesses to use the employee tax incentive to hire more young jobseekers and to make more training and mentoring opportunities available.”

According to Ramaphosa, it is now in the community’s hands to work together “to ensure that every South African, young and old, is lifted out of poverty, has access to decent work and gets an opportunity to realize their true potential”.