Crime, gender-based violence (GBV), road fatalities and mental health not only topped national headlines last year but also affected schools.
Some of pupils who sat for the National Senior Certificate (NSC) exams were casualties of these tragedies.
The top-performing province Free State – which retained the No 1 spot for four years in a row – not only lost its much-loved education MEC Tate Makgoe in a car accident in March last year. The newly appointed education MEC Makalo Mohale had to deal with a gruesome shooting of a security guard at Rantsane Secondary School two months after taking over the reins in the province.
Sadly, a grade 12 pupil of the school situated in the poor village of Makwane in Qwaqwa witnessed the killing.
At the time, Mohale described the incident as “the most painful news I have had to deal with since assuming office”.
Rantsane, a quintile 1 school in the Thabo Mofutsanyane education district, achieved a 99.4% pass rate in last year’s matric results compared to 100% in 2022.
In Mpumalanga, just as the pupils were writing the NSC exams, an 18-year-old grade 12 of Mawewe High School, Bushbuckridge, died on November 27 after being bitten by a snake during a camp to prepare for exams.
Mawewe, a school situated in the poor community of Dumphries village, recorded 80.2% pass rate, an improvment of 3.5% from the 2022 results.
Mpumalanga is position 8 in the national pass-rate pecking order, a drop from position 7 in 2022. Though it is at the bottom of the national results, four pupils from Mpumalanga were among the top national candidates of the Class of 2023.
Simtfolile Secondary School pupil Irvis Chisale scooped third place in the top candidates in the quantile 1 school. Friends Siyabonga Vuma and Ennocent Mbimbili from DD Mabuza Comprehensive High School took top honours for technical maths nationally. Vuma took first position while Mbimbili came second.
In North West, schooling was disrupted for several days in April at John Frylinck Secondary School when some pupils came to school carrying dangerous weapons. The school in Huhudi, near Vryburg, had been experiencing problems with gangsterism. Education MEC Viola Motsumi told pupils she was closely monitoring the behaviour of pupils at the school.
John Frylinck is one of the poor performing schools in the province. Last year, the pass rate was 62%, a slight increase from 60% in 2022 and 56% in 2021.
In Gauteng, a grade 12 pupil at Nigel High School committed suicide in June last year by drinking poison. The school, which achieved a 93% pass rate dropped in performance to 84% in 2022 and 86% last year.
Murders and rapes of pupils also sent shock waves in Gauteng. A 17-year-old grade 12 girl at Ntsako Secondary School in Soshanguve, north of Tshwane, was raped and killed in May. She was on her way home after attending extra classes. Her body was found near Echibini Secondary School. Ntsako achieved a pass rate of 83% last year, down from 87% in 2022.
Before the exams, a grade 12 pupil at Unity Secondary School in Daveyton committed suicide. The pass rate at Unity has been declining from 86% in 2021 and 2022 to 79% last year.