National Senior Catastrophe:  no distinction for Motshekga

Issued by Baxolile 'Bax' Nodada MP – DA Shadow Minister of Basic Education
21 Jan 2024 in News

Report Card: Angie Motshekga, Minister of Basic Education

Subject: Foundation phase outcomes 

Grade: F

Comments: 81% of grade 4s can’t read for meaning in any language, and 56% of grade 6 learners cannot read at a grade 4 level. 74.2% of schools don’t have libraries. And only 56.9% have libraries that actually contain books. Grade 4 and 8 learners struggle with basic maths and science.

Proposed solutions: The DA suggest devoting the first two hours of each school day in the Foundation Phase (grade R to grade 3) to developing reading and writing skills, as well as reviewing budget allocations to allow funds to be directed towards reading resources and interventions, including building and stocking libraries or partnering with communities to allow for access to community libraries.

The Department of Basic Education must develop more resources to teach reading.


Subject: Teacher development 

Grade: F

Comments: Unfortunately, South African teachers fail to meet both international and regional standards and they have poor content knowledge of the subjects they are meant to teach. 

The SACMEQ IV report revealed that only 64% of teachers had critical reading skills at a grade 6 level. Only 32.4% of teachers had concrete problem-solving skills when tested at a grade 6 level and only 35.4% had abstract problem-solving skills. Only 758 teachers earned a minimum of 50 professional development points in 2023. SACE’s target was 25 000. That’s an underperformance of 97%.

49% of South African teachers are older than 50 and set to retire within the next 5 to 15 years. There is an impending teacher shortage, particularly in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects.

Proposed solutions: The DA proposes strengthening the PERSAL system to better determine the hiring and training needs for teachers.

We further propose that teachers undergo a competency assessment every three years to remain in the profession. The Western Cape Schools Evaluation Authority (SEA) should be expanded nationally

Subject: Drop outs 

Grade: F

Comments: Grade 9 learner dropouts have increased 33.3% – 345 626 learners dropped out between grade 10 in 2021 and grade 12 in 2023. While some of these learners might be completing their educations through TVET colleges, many of them are unfortunately joining the 3.3 million (32.7%) million young people aged 15-24 years not in employment, education, or training (NEET). The real matric pass rate is only 55.3%.

In 2023, 8 122 schoolgirls between the ages of 15 and 19, as well as 2 328 girls between 10 and 14 years old fell pregnant. DBE reported that only a third of girls stay in school during their pregnancy and return following childbirth.

StatsSA’s 2021 General Household Survey revealed that 21.2% of dropouts are due to poor academic performance.

Proposed solutions: The DA proposes strengthening learner tracking and tracing mechanisms and divert learners who drop out of school and do not attend further training to get directed back to school.

Additional positions must be created for in-house counsellors or educational psychologists, at the district level. In acknowledging that resources are scarce and that it might not be realistic to have in-house counsellors in each school, schools must assess their learners’ needs and make a request to access expertise from the district, to ensure support which is affordable.

Pregnant learners must be supported during and after their pregnancies to ensure they stay in school.

The Western Cape has taken a whole-of-society approach in ensuring that learners’ various environments are safe, including school infrastructure, safety policies a schools, as well as their development environments, which includes positively influencing parents, teachers, and learner behaviour.

Subject: School safety 

Grade: F

Comments: Learners are forced to attend schools where classrooms are overcrowded. 3 932 schools still have pit toilets and 728 only have pit toilets, of which 506 are in the Eastern Cape – the province where Langalam Viki died in a pit toilet. Every deadline to eradicate pit toilets and address infrastructure problems through the ASIDI and SAFE programmes have been missed.

Learners are forced to attend schools in facilities built with mud and asbestos; some buildings are so unsafe that learners are taught under trees.

The crime statistics revealed that between January and September 2023, there were 27 murders, 59 attempted murders, 707 cases of assault/grievous bodily harm, and 229 rapes on the premises of educational institutions (schools, universities, colleges, day care facilities).

Proposed solutions: All schools and sanitation facilities built with inappropriate or dangerous materials must be eradicated. The Western Cape’s Rapid School Build programme continues to expand with 10 new schools and 3 replacement schools being built this year alone, despite the budget cut of R716.4 million.

A National School Protection Response Team, which would include relevant departments such as SAPS, DBE, and other relevant stakeholders, should be established to protect learners, staff, and infrastructure.

Subject: Mother tongue education 

Grade: F

Comments: The last 30 years under ANC governance have seen very little development of indigenous languages, despite the fact that the Department’s own isiXhosa-pilot for biology, maths and other subjects had decent results.

The Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill seeks to disempower school governing bodies (SGBs) from determining admission and language policies that will benefit their communities, while also creating opportunity to target schools with a single language of learning, despite the fact that the PIRLS results revealed that learners who completed the test in their mother tongue had better comprehension.

Proposed solutions: Mother tongue education must be safeguarded as enshrined in section 29(1) of the Constitution, which states that “everyone has the right to receive education in the official language of languages of their choice in public educational institutions, where that education is reasonably practicable.” The language of instruction is one of many factors influencing a learner’s academic performance and should be considered, especially given the PIRLS results.

Subject: Quality of education 

Grade: D

Comments: The PIRLS revealed that 81% of grade 4 and 56% of grade 6 learners cannot read for meaning in any language. The 2019 TIMMS revealed that only 41% of grade 9 maths learners and 36% of science learners had acquired the basic subject knowledge and skills, while only 37% of grade 5 mathematics learners and 28% of science learners had acquired the basic subject knowledge and skills for their grade. 37.2% of grade 10 learners and 25.9% of grade 8s in the Free State failed their exams last year.

The 2017 OECD Benchmarking report placed South Africa 75th out of 76 countries in terms of quality of education.

According to the 2023 Education Facility Management System (EFMS) Report, 74.2% of public schools do not have any libraries; while only 56.9% of the libraries are stocked.

82.6% do not have laboratories; 66.2% do not have computer centres; 43.1% do not have access to any sports facilities.

Umalusi’s benchmarking study revealed that the South African curriculum compares quite favourably to other programmes/qualifications but concerns regarding the quality of teaching was raised during the presentation of the results.

Proposed solutions: Additional time should be allocated towards core subjects such as mathematics, science, and language, while reducing the instructional workload in other subjects by concentrating on fewer topics but delving into them in more detail.

Unnecessary time lost for learning must be prevented as improving time management in education could significantly improve learning outcomes. Each learner must get 210 full teaching days per year.

The Western Cape systemic surveys must be expanded nationwide to monitor learning challenges and guide targeted interventions.

Be part of the mission to rescue South Africa, get help registering to vote at