The ANC does not know what these schools know


By Johnell Prinloo

Last Thursday and Friday, the country’s matric results from both the Independent Examination Board (IEB) as well as the National Senior Certificate (NSC) were announced. Praise and criticism poured in from all quarters.

On social media, proud parents, family members and schools proudly showed off the reward of the hard work of the previous 12 years.

Perhaps, before my own critical thinking and cynicism get the better of me, I should just offer the following sincere congratulations to the matric class of 2023, their teachers, parents and support network:

As a community we are extremely proud of you. We know that any achievement truly comes at a price and that you had to work hard and tackle your exams and other tasks with seriousness and responsibility in order to finally succeed. We also know that it takes dedicated teachers and parents who pray and help wherever they can.

Despite the beauty, the ANC, as always, casts its shadow over the beautiful moment. An improving pass rate is of course something to be excited about, but when analyzing the education system, it is clear that quality does not prevail. The Gauteng Premier, Panyaza Lesufi, acknowledged this when he vomited bile over the IEB’s results by referring to a rich man’s exam versus an exam for children who do not enjoy the same opportunities, rather than congratulating the IEB wholeheartedly with the pass rate of 98.46%. These results were announced the day before the NSC results.

It is clear that there is simply no political will to raise the standard of the NSC or to offer opportunities to children from South Africa. As with the proposed Bela Amendment Act and the National Health Insurance, the state would rather deprive the private sector (which by necessity fills the gaps of the state) and citizens of their rights and freedoms than carry out its mandate and quality services, and in these case education, to deliver.

According to the ruling party, the matric results of 2023 are indeed labeled as a victory for South Africa. Without taking anything away from the individual or performing schools, I want to point out that the standards by which the ruling party measures performance, and the standard by which communities striving for excellence measure performance, do not match in any way.

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) really has little to sing its victory song about. Thousands of children leave the system before they reach matric and many learners do not receive quality education or sufficient opportunities to develop. This causes a domino effect: low pass rates in other phases and grades and higher transfer rates are the result. Learners are promoted to new grades and phases in this sausage machine without the learner having the necessary skills or knowledge to master the new job.

Apart from the suffocating state interference and regulations in the private sector that negatively affect the unemployment rate, the quality of the NSC is truly questionable when especially the youth unemployment rate as well as the rate at which students kick off are taken into account. The DBO sends matrics into the wide world without actually being able to read with comprehension, do basic sums or solve simple problems, and then the DBO applauds themselves for being so cute.

It is precisely the above class of statements by Mr. Lesufi and other ANC delegates who, apart from the anger I feel, also make me shake my head in absolute daze and fill me with gratitude that I am part of a cultural and linguistic community that with a resilient fighting spirit sees a chance to rise above any to rise above the challenge or circumstance.

It is nice for me to see how Afrikaans and other schools that take their task seriously do not jump on the blame bandwagon, but really put their shoulders to the wheel to achieve. Schools, parents and school communities put their hands deliberately and purposefully into their own bosoms to equip children for the challenges of the future. Where the ANC lowers its standards, these schools bend over backwards to maintain their own high standards. Where the state threatens mother tongue education, schools and communities continue to fight to make sure children can still be taught in the language of their choice, even if they have to privatize or upgrade schools to take in more learners. Where the ANC refuses to take responsibility, these schools and communities show up with solutions and rolled up their sleeves and tackle every challenge with zeal and faith. Even children from the most dire circumstances are more eager to accept responsibility for their own future than the party that rules the country.

The 2023 matric results are sure to be a victory for the citizens of the country. It shows we can do better than the state. This shows that we are prepared to work ourselves, build ourselves and ensure the future ourselves – a free, safe and prosperous future.

I like to steal Dricus du Plessis’s words and adapt them to the context: They (the ANC) don’t know what we know.

  • Johnell Prinsloo is a policy analyst attached to the Solidarity Research Institute.