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16 January 2023
Matric Results: Impact of societal challenges, loadshedding and COVID-19 on Class of 2022

As matriculants across the country gear up for the release of their results, the Deputy Dean of Research in the Faculty of  Education at the University of the Western Cape, believes certain societal challenges need to be considered. 

Professor Rouaan Maarman specialises in poverty and education. He is frequently invited to comment on basic education matters and the state of basic education in South Africa. It has been reported that 923 460 learners, full and part-time, had registered to sit for the 2022 senior certificate examinations.

Professor Maarman says it was a high stakes examination as learners’ futures depended on their results and gaining access to tertiary education. He says 463 000 matriculants from the class of 2021 did not achieve higher education access.

He argues that school performance should be reviewed against the backdrop of societal challenges like overcrowding, school attendance, teaching time, teaching resources and household dynamics, for example. And in the case of the class of 2022: loadshedding.

Prof Maarman says racialised school performance still persists in South Africa and he believes poor school communities and learners are mostly affected, as blackouts were more severe in their areas.

“In poor communities the blackouts were more severe than in better-off areas and cities. The same goes for the rural towns who experienced more and longer hours of blackouts in 2022. This state of affairs obviously reinforces the many existing disparities in school experience and learner performances, where within urban areas you would find better school performances than in poorer school communities,” he says.

“It seems as if the cycle of poverty is intensified by electricity blackouts and every layer of disadvantage contributes to a more challenging school performance in the poorer school communities.”

Prof Maarman also raises concern about the mental health impact of loadshedding on the class of 2022.

“Mentally, I think the struggles of the teachers, learners and parents to create a conducive learning space also intensified. The apprehension and uncertainty of how blackouts will play out on a daily basis had a negative effect on the planned supportive programmes for the class of 2022,” he says.

“Stages of blackouts are announced a day before or on the day of implementation, and that impacts the planning of learners negatively.” 

Prof Maarman, who has advocated for a change of thinking in basic education in the midst of fast changing social and technological realities since the COVID-19 pandemic started, says other compounding factors included the effect of the pandemic and the lockdown on the schooling experience for the class 2022. 

“These learners were exposed to interrupted schooling since their Grade 10 year, so it is bound to have an impact on results. However, the Department of Basic Education insists they were able to support the learners with a trimmed curriculum and other supportive programmes. So, like in the case of 2021, the Department of Basic Education expects good results in the context of the disruption,” he says. 

“The challenges however that persist in the schooling system pre- and post- covid remain the same. The throughput rate, which some might argue is a better indicator of school performance and the state of a schooling system, is important to understand.”