MATRIC RESULTS: WHAT ARE WE CELEBRATING?
The class of 2022 has attained a pass rate of 80.1 percent. Compared to the previous class of 2021, this is an improvement of 3.7 percent. Impressive, right? Yes and no.
Yes, because there are more learners who have passed compared to the year before. This means there is progress in the right direction.
Yes, because the improvement of the class of 2022 has to be understood in the context of effects of the Covid-19 pandemic which seriously affected learning and teaching for at least two years.
Yes, because this class had to cope with some of the worst electricity cuts by the power utility, ESKOM. Despite all the odds, the class of 2022 displayed resilience and produced relatively good results.
But not all that glitters is gold. If you unpack these results, there are some worrying figures. For instance, of the more than 920 000 learners who sat for their matric examination, only 278 814 obtained a university entrance. In order to qualify for a Bachelor pass, a learner should get at least 40% in home language, 50% in four other subjects and a 30% in the last subject. This means that a learner needs about 50% on aggregate to be considered for university admission. And only 38,4% of the class of 2022 obtained an aggregate mark of at least 50%. That is not impressive.
That is not the end of the problem. At most, all the universities in the country can enrol at most about 200 000 new applicants. So, at least 78 000 matriculants will not find space in a university. If the pass rate was better that the 38,4%, the crisis of admission at universities would be much greater.
The crisis does not end there. Of the 200 000 who would be lucky to be admitted at universities, up to 60% or 120 000 of them will drop out in the first year. Only 15% or 30 000 will graduate. And that is the crux of the problem. The country is failing its young people. Twelve years ago, about a million learners would have started Grade 1. About 16 years later, the system produces only 30 000 graduates out of the million. This is a disaster!
Instead of getting excited about the numbers, there has to be more focus on improving the quality of the learners. If learners are better prepared for university at secondary level, the dropout rate should be far less.
As a country, we should be worried that the system is rejecting too many of our young people. The system is producing too many of unemployable young people. It is condemning them to a life of unemployment and poverty. It is converting aspirant young professionals into candidates of social grants.
Of course, there are some who argue that not every learner should become a graduate. They are correct. But those who do not become graduates should be empowered with a skill. There has to be a concerted and deliberate effort to encourage young people to acquire artisan skills such as plumbing, carpentry and electricity.
We are sitting on a time bomb. The current ruling class has neither vision nor political will to confront the issues of unemployment and poverty. It is not only sad but also scary.
REJECT THE ABUSE AND EXPLOITATION BY NERSA
The Deputy President of AZAPO Cde Kekeletso Khena led a sit-in by senior members of the organisation at NERSA head office to protest against the unjustified 18.65 percent increase on the cost of electricity. The energy regulator has granted the power utility, ESKOM, an above the inflation tariff increase, a move that has angered the entire nation.
AZAPO, as the voice of the poor and Black people in particular, resolved to challenge NERSA on its decision to grant ESKOM the huge hike in the electricity tariff. Members of the organisation have been staging picket demonstration outside the NERSA office in Pretoria. A smaller number of the protestors gained entry of the office and staged a sit-in that lasted five days, ending on Friday last week.
Why the protest action? The government has a policy on inflation. The targeted rate of inflation, according to this policy, should be between 3 and 6 percent. Each time inflation goes beyond 6 percent, the Reserve Bank hikes the repo rate which results in higher interest rate. The government is so committed to this policy that the Reserve Bank has only one mandate, to keep inflation under the target of 6 percent. The tool of hiking the repo rate is blindly used even if the inflation is caused by factors that have nothing to do with the South African consumers but everything to do with international factors such as the price of oil or the war in Ukraine.
The government has ignored impassioned pleas from labour and other economic analysts who wanted the Reserve Bank to have a broader mandate that will also take into account the burning issue of unemployment.
But the same government that wants to cap inflation at 6 percent has allowed NERSA to grant ESKOM permission to increase the electricity tariffs by more than 18 percent.
Anybody who has a basic understanding of economics will agree that the cost of electricity is one of the key drivers of inflation. When the cost of electricity goes up, the entire food chain in different economic sectors will be affected negatively and inflation will rise rapidly. And when that happens, the government through the Reserve Bank will hike interest rates further. The real victim of this would be poor South Africans, many of whom are living below the poverty line.
According to Johannesburg City Power, only 5 percent of residents in Alexandra township are paying for their electricity. When the cost of power is increased, it is logical that fewer can afford to pay for this essential service. The pool of paying customers will decrease and the burden on those who pay will increase. ESKOM is creating ideal conditions for civil disobedience through this high cost of electricity.
The truth is that ESKOM does not have a problem of cash. ESKOM has a problem of corruption and poor management. Throwing more resources to a corrupt entity will not make the entity deliver better and provide reliable electricity but will only increase the pool of resources that will be available for looting.
It is AZAPO’s submission that ESKOM does not need more money. It requires honest management who will service the power stations and increase generation capacity. The fact that ESKOM was generating only 49 percent of its generation capacity was made public by the Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Gwede Mantashe.
According to Mantashe, if ESKOM can raise its generation capacity from 49 percent to 75 percent, load-shedding would be history. All that is required for this to happen is that ESKOM should burn coal and maintain all its power stations and ensure that they perform at 75 percent.
However, this simple solution to load-shedding will not be done. There are very powerful members of the political aristocracy who are making a killing by selling diesel to ESKOM. If load-shedding is history, these politically connected fuel brokers will lose billions, and so load-shedding should continue.
But ESKOM is running out of money because it spends billions of rands to buy diesel to keep the lights on, albeit for a limited number of hours a day. In order to get more money, they have to ask NERSA to approve this hefty tariff hike of 18.65 percent. This is why we should never allow NERSA to grant ESKOM the tariff hike. ESKOM wants this money to fund corruption at the power utility.
What is happening at ESKOM is no different from what happens in various municipalities throughout the country. Politicians working with their tenderpreneur surrogates deliberately stop maintaining water purification plants. When there is a crisis of water, these rotten politicians then allocate tenders that will ensure that water is supplied to residents through trucks. It is a lucrative business. If a political decision is taken that water should no longer be supplied via water-tankers, then the incentive to sabotage water infrastructure would be removed.
As our founding father Bantu Biko said, the period of oppression is prescribed by the endurance of the oppressed. In other words, South Africans can only be oppressed and exploited to the extent that they allow. Through the protest action against NERSA, AZAPO is saying: “Enough is enough and no more should we take this abuse by ESKOM and the government in general.”
This AZAPO call was so loud that members of civil society listened and joined the fight to stop NERSA, ESKOM and government on their tracks from implementing the tariff hike. It was great to see members of #NotInMyName (Nimni) marching side by side with AZAPO from the NERSA office in Pretoria to Union Buildings upon the exit of the AZAPO Deputy President-led platoon of protesters from the 5 day sit-in.
In an unprecedent fashion, Ramaphosa has since announced that he has asked ESKOM to suspend its plans to increase electricity by 18.65 percent on 1 April 2023. Ramaphosa said: “I have told Eskom that it should consider halting the hiking of electricity prices, especially for now while our people are struggling under high levels of load shedding.” He further stated that “Many people are reporting that their businesses are failing because of load shedding.”
You will be correct and justified to ask if this was not the case before ESKOM applied to NERSA for the exorbitant price hike and for NERSA to accede to the request. You will do well to recall that it was Ramaphosa who said there is nothing he can do as his hands are tied. This is a regulated industry that he, as President of the country, cannot interfere in. Ramaphosa forgot that he is President of the country and the sole shareholder at ESKOM. He forgot that he has a responsibility to enable economic growth and create conducive environment for employment opportunities to exist for young people whose unemployment figures grow by the hour. When such happens, AZAPO is always there, as representatives of the poor and Black people to remind him that he is President. Viva AZAPO!
The ruling party has at its last national conference held in December last year, resolved to establish a State-owned bank. As expected, there has been strong opposition to the idea by many opposition parties.
With good reason, many people in the country are weary of the current government having control of many public assets. They argue that virtually everything that the government touches gets destroyed. They have tangible exhibits. They point at DENEL, SAA, ESKOM, SABC, TRANSNET, PRASA and many other State-owned entities that have been poorly managed and looted to the ground.
There is more. VBS. The mutual bank established by the Venda homeland government was looted by senior members of the ruling party and people with close ties to the government.
It is understandable why ordinary people would be apprehensive towards the idea of establishing a State-owned bank. They see it as just another ploy of looting State funds.
There is a growing body of evidence that the government is failing to run the State properly. In many areas, the middle class and the rich have opted for the private sector to provide services such as education, health and security. They feel justified. Just to illustrate the point, in the latest matric results, only 38,4 percent of those who wrote Grade 12 in public schools obtained university admission. That is extremely poor performance compared to the pass rate of 89.32 percent who obtained bachelor’s after writing their matric in the IEB that caters for private schools.
The fact that the government is failing to deliver services should not mean that all essential services should be outsourced to the private sector as some would argue. The challenge is to make the government efficient. The first step is for the public to hold those that they have elected to office accountable. There has to be a relationship between performance and the retaining of political office. Voters should be reminded that the power to change things lies with them, not with politicians.
The idea of establishing a State-owned bank is in principle a noble idea. The mistake that those who are opposed to the idea make is to link the establishment of a State bank with the ruling party. If the ruling party has failed to govern, as it has displayed in many areas, it should be relieved of this heavy burden by the voters. It would be wrong to advocate for a weak State, a State that owns almost nothing, simply because the current government has a dismal poor record of performance.
There can be no doubt that a State-owned bank would be beneficial to the majority of the people, especially the poor. The problem is the current ruling party and not the State-owned bank. If South Africans want a stronger State that runs public entities efficiently, they should first remove a ruling party that is systematically weakening the State and looting public funds. If that is achieved, the idea of a State-owned bank will be attractive. But for now, it sounds like a scheme designed to loot and that is why it received very little support.