Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga is facing heightened pressure as the Class of 2023 commences its National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations.
Over 90 000 candidates sat for their first paper on Monday, marking the beginning of a crucial period in their academic journeys.
According to the department, a total of 723 971 full-time students, 181 143 part-time students, and 34 626 progressed learners will take part in the examinations.
To ensure the smooth conduct of the exams, 207 question papers, 72 500 invigilators and 52 500 markers have been deployed across the country.
Concern over loadshedding
The exams kicked off with English Home Language Paper 1 and Second Language Paper 1. However, the shadow of loadshedding looms over the examination process.
On Sunday, power utility Eskom announced stage two rolling power cuts that are expected to continue until 4pm on Monday, with the possibility of stage two and three loadshedding persisting until further notice.
Despite these challenges, the department has implemented measures to mitigate power interruptions, including back-up generators and other contingency plans at provincial education districts and schools.
“Candidates’ laptops will be fully charged before the start of the examinations and the back-up generators will also be in place,” Motshekga said.
ANC confident of good results
The ANC has since expressed confidence in Motshekga and the Class of 2023.
In a statement on Monday, the ANC blew its horn and emphasised its commitment to establishing a strong education system that provides equitable opportunities for all candidates.
The party wished all matriculants well and encouraged them to excel in their exams.
“It is important to emphasise that the ANC-led government has worked diligently and tirelessly to establish an education system that ensures every candidate has a fair and equitable opportunity to excel in their examinations, leaving no one behind,” reads the ANC statement.
“This class will reap the rewards of the curriculum recovery strategy put together by the Department of Basic Education.
“The ANC believes that the Class of 2023 is a chosen one, as they embark on their final lap amidst the Springboks’ triumph in France against the All Blacks.
“We are firmly convinced that this class, in the spirit of the Bokke, will make a resounding statement that education is not only fashionable but also the ‘first duty of revolutionaries.’
“This statement is rooted in their commitment to showcasing the success of our nation, both on and off the field and within the confines of the classroom.”
In contrast, the opposition has called for Motshekga’s removal, citing alleged incompetence and failure to deliver adequate results.
The DA’s Baxolile Nodada criticised the government’s focus on certain bills, including the contentious Basic Education Laws Amendment (Bela) Bill instead of addressing fundamental issues in the education sector.
The Bela Bill seeks to amend the South African Schools Act and introduce changes such as mandatory school-starting ages and penalties for parents who do not enroll their children in grade R.
“The Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, and her department are continuing to fail in providing quality education to South African youth, condemning them to a lifetime of poverty, unemployment and hunger,” said Nodada.
“Her failure is contributing to the 3.4-million young people not in employment, education, or training, and the more than 60% of 15-24 years olds not having jobs at all, likely because the minister and her department failed to provide them with the skills to succeed.”
Motshekga’s head must roll
He said instead of focusing on improving the quality of education by addressing the systemic failures – overcrowding, unsafe infrastructure, drop-outs – “the minister and her ANC colleagues bulldozed the damaging Bela Bill through parliament”.
“This draconian bill will disempower SGBs [school governing bodies], parents, and communities from making decisions about their children’s education.”
The matric Class of 2022 attained a pass rate of 80.1%.
At the time, Motshekga noted the upward trend in the NSC pass rate over the past decade, rising from 60% in 2009 to consistently exceeding 70% in recent years.
Nevertheless, the DA has called for Motshekga’s removal, arguing that these achievements fall short of expectations.
Nodada argued that the education sector has been plagued by issues such as low numeracy and literacy skills, poor teaching, infrastructure failures, high drop-out rates, and irregular expenditure during Motshekga’s tenure.
“It is time that minister Motshekga’s head rolled, and for South Africa to have a competent minister of basic education that cared about the future of our children,” he said.