Class of 2020 overcome the odds

The IEB matric results were announced on Friday. Pictured are three of the five Herzlia High School matric pupils who wrote the IEB mathematics exams, Sarah Katz, Raquel Alexa Kampel and Gia Hasson, with school principal, Marc Falconer at Sea Point promenade. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

For the first time since 2010, the Western Cape has missed out on achieving an 80% pass rate for the National Senior Certificate (NSC) matric results.

The national matric results were released by Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, on Monday, February 22.

The national NSC pass rate stands at 76.2% – a decline of 5.1% from the record pass of 81.3% achieved by the class of 2019.

All the provinces experienced a decline in the pass rate from last year’s matric results.

Following Gauteng and Free State, the Western Cape came in the third position with a pass rate of 79.9%, a decline of 2.4% from 2019.

While Jan Van Riebeek High dropped from 100% in 2019 to 97.7% in 2020, Herzlia High School maintained its 100% pass rate for the third consecutive year.

Herzlia High School principal Marc Falconer said they are celebrating their 2020 matric group and their achievements.

“In any year these results would have been exceptional, but in the context of the global pandemic and the extraordinary challenges this brought, the results of the 2020 group are astonishing and are the best results our school has ever achieved,” he said.

He said every pupil, irrespective of distinctions, deserves to be commended for their resilience, grit, focus and dedication in a year characterised by change, loss, grief, but also by adaptability, determination, innovation and camaraderie.

He said the role of all their teachers, throughout this group’s school career, deserve to be recognised – and last year, particularly, it is necessary and important to note and commend the dedication, adaptability and unquestioned investment of each of their teachers and a level of support far beyond the normal.

Mr Falconer admitted that the school was privileged.

“We had a great number of resources for us to continue our learning programme – without missing one day – from the very beginning of lockdown. Not every school was able to do this.”

“Education is about these results, but also about the values, skills, habits and relationships that our pupils take out into the world after they leave their school,” he said.

Vista High School and Sea Point High School showed an increase in their 2020 results from 66.7% and 82.0% in 2019 to 75.0% and 95.8%, respectively.

Goodhope Seminary High School and Camps Bay High School showed a slight decrease from 98.8% and 98.5% in 2019 to 97.6% and 96.8% respectively.

Western Cape Education MEC, Debbie Schäfer, said while all provinces saw their pass rates decline – an understandable outcome during a pandemic that severely disrupted schooling around the world – she was pleased to report that the province’s pass rate has suffered the least of any of the provinces.

“Our pass rate declined by 2.4% compared to last year, to 79.9%. This impact is lower than the average national decrease of 5.1%, and the lowest decline of any of the provinces.”

She said while they have seen a decline in the pass rate, there are many things to celebrate. “Despite the lockdown, the disruption to the school calendar, and the uncertainty throughout the year, we have seen that the quality of our matric passes has once again improved, as has the overall retention rate from Grade 10,” she said.

She said the number and percentage of Bachelor’s degree passes has increased, to the highest level ever, of 43.8% of the 51 633 candidates that wrote in the Western Cape.

“Throughout 2020, it has not been easy to determine the real impact of Covid-19 on the Class of 2020 with regards to the retention of learners in the system. Despite many negative predictions, I was pleased to see that the effects were not as bad as some have reported in the Western Cape,” she said.

She said she was proud of the Class of 2020 which, in these difficult circumstances, chose to commit to finish their matric. “This is testimony to their resilience and commitment, but also the hard work and dedication of their teachers, who were under immense strain and pressure to perform in very unusual circumstances. The innovation we also saw during this period in many schools was exemplary. It is also testimony to our “matric parents”, on whom our learners relied for encouragement to continue, and for creating a conducive learning environment,” she said.