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South Africa’s School Pass Rate Improves Amid Virus Disruption

February 18, 2022

Original Article:

South Africa’s school pass rate showed a slight improvement in 2021, the second year in which learning was disrupted by restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Of the 897,163 pupils who sat for the 2021 final-year examinations at public schools, 76.4% passed, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said Thursday. That compares with 76.2% the previous year and 81% in 2019, the last year in which schooling took place without Covid restrictions.

The stop-start virus restrictions have necessitated remote learning at times, to the detriment of pupils who have inadequate internet access or who can’t afford the cost of data. That’s exacerbated education disparity in the nation with the world’s highest unemployment rate. 

Even before the onset of the pandemic, South Africa’s state schooling outcomes lagged behind its peers, despite basic education being the biggest expenditure item in the national budget. The 2019 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, shows its fourth- and eighth-graders were among the worst performers in 64 and 46 countries respectively. 

The persistently poor quality of education in schools serving children in historically disadvantaged communities weighs on their employment prospects in a country where more than a third of the workforce is jobless. 

Learning is also held back by an uneven availability of textbooks and labor unions that “fervently resist any policy to monitor teachers by blocking accountability reforms,” the International Monetary Fund said in a 2019 report.

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