30 December 2003

The Young Communist League of South Africa (YCLSA) congratulates the matric students, teachers, parents and the Department of Education for their collective efforts to ensure an improvement in this year’s matric results.

These improved results show the determination of our youth to learn, despite all odds, particularly from the majority of our youth which comes from poor and working class families.

However, as the YCL we are concerned about the declining number of matriculants who write matric exams. This has declined from 511 474 in 1999 to 440 267 in 2003. This is as a result, as the department of education itself has found in 2002, of a number of reasons, including the unfair and unjust exclusion of repeaters and over-age learners from the formal education system. We are also convinced that high school fees, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, social and economic problems in many poor and working class families and communities, teenage pregnancy which is also used as a barrier to education against girl children, crime, drug problems, are also a factor.

But what is particularly disturbing is the high drop out rate in our schools prior to Grade 12, and the tendency of many some schools to discourage weak learners from proceeding to write matric exams, in order to improve performance. The YCL calls on the Department of Education to conduct an urgent investigation into the declining numbers of matric candidates and to put in place mechanisms to address the roots behind this decline.

The YCL is also concerned about high school and university fees as these are likely to lead to exclusions and thus denial of many of their right to education, despite the welcome assistance from government through the national student financial aid scheme (NFSA).

The YCL calls for the recommendations of the task team appointed by Minister of Education last year to investigate the costs of education to be implemented without delay. Factors such as transport, school fees, school uniforms, etc. remain an effective barrier to education for many poor and working class students. The YCL specifically calls on the Minister to implement the task team’s proposal to exempt schools in the bottom 40% from paying fees.

The YCL calls for a similar investigation into the costs of education in the higher education sector, and the unacceptably high variations between the least and the most expensive institutions of higher learning.

The improved results must not obscure the high disparities in resources and infrastructure between those schools serving mainly the working class and the rural poor (which are mainly black African) and those serving the middle class (predominantly white former model C schools). The YCL is convinced that commitments made at the Growth and Development Summit on investment in infrastructure and skills development must be implemented without delays and prioritised towards the wiping out of backlogs in poor schools (electrification, ablution systems, laboratories, access roads, etc.) and opportunities for learnerships by our youth.

Buti Manamela
National Secretary
Young Communist League
Cell – 082 222 5474