Documents/The Opportunity Society/Education and Skills/
Saving Dysfunctional Schools
At a glance
STEP 1: A National Task Team for 20% schools
STEP 2: The Buck Stops with the Principal
STEP 3: Tracking Educator Appointments
STEP 4: A Mentoring Programme
STEP 5: A good school is a safe school
STEP 6: A “good poor schools” analysis
Documents to Download
Of the 528 525 candidates who wrote matric in 2006, only 351 503, or 66.6%, passed. This figure disguises a massive variation in results. For example, eight schools in the Eastern Cape and three schools in Limpopo produced no matric passes at all. Altogether, a total of 139 schools around the country produced pass rates of under 20%.
Last week, the MEC for education in Gauteng, with the apparent support of national education minister Naledi Pandor, threatened to close down 200 dysfunctional schools and axe their principals, after these schools produced uniformly disastrous matric results.
These threats were withdrawn after the implications of having thousands of children with no school to go to became clear. But it is clear that we need to take some bold steps to confront the problem of non-functional schools – and steps that involve more than trying to bully schools into better results once a year, when the cameras are focused on education, while leaving the problems to fester throughout the rest of the year.
Education Minister Naledi Pandor’s assertion, after she had made the 2007 results public, that "we are not yet at the point where we wish to be", is a colossal understatement. The government has made little progress in finding ways to get those schools that continue, year after year, to produce dismal results, to improve.
Twelve years after policies were introduced to ensure education for all, the acceptance of unacceptable results cannot continue.
The example of many schools around the country that produced good results, despite the appalling circumstances of the schools and the dire poverty of the children, shows what can be done.
An array of interventions is needed to improve the conditions under which all children learn. In particular, the non-functioning of the school inspectors’ system in many provincial governments and problems with inadequate administrative back-up from provincial governments make the delivery of quality teaching very difficult.
But the DA believes that the crisis of schooling at those 139 schools that achieved pass rates of under 20% - schools which can be defined as effectively non-functional - needs to be the focus of a dedicated national rescue plan. The DA proposes six policy interventions aimed specifically at these “20% schools”, to be implemented and followed up over a period of three years.
While these schools are only a tiny percentage of the total number of schools, we believe that improving the performance at the worst schools is the most immediate priority for the department of education. Moreover, addressing the crisis in these institutions will have a knock-on effect for other schools, and we will gradually see an overall improvement in the quality of results across the board.