They are barely adults, some still not allowed to vote or drive, and already the pressure is piling on the class of 2018 as they scramble for places in higher education, and jobs in a market with limited prospects.
More than that, the country was expecting them to do great things, Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga noted at a media breakfast for the country’s best performers in the National Senior Certificate yesterday.
“We are not putting pressure on you, but it puts unfortunately huge responsibilities on your shoulders,” Motshekga said to the group of 29 youngsters selected as 2019’s top pupils.
“It means for us as a country we already have our cream that is supposed to take us to other heights, is it not so?
“You are the best of the best, you are going to join the other best.”
Motshekga said the country had fallen slightly short of the anticipated pass rate.
“In 2018, our overall pass rate – with progressed pupils – stands at 78.2%. We have improved with 3.1%. If we exclude progressed pupils, we would be at 79.4%, 0.6% short of the 80% we have been clamouring for,” said Motshekga.
The minister said the leading district was the Free State with a 92.3% pass rate, followed by Tshwane South with 91.7% and Johannesburg East bringing up third place, noting eight of the top districts were in Gauteng.
Limpopo came in at ninth overall with a 69% pass rate while the top performing province was Gauteng with 87.9%.
Motshegka said more than 800 000 pupils had registered for the exams, of which more than 625 000 were full-time pupils, and approximately 176 00 were part-time.
However, there’s a problem with space in tertiary education organisations. For example, the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) received approximately 91 000 applications for approximately 8 770 first year places, its spokesperson Normah Zondo said yesterday.
At Wits University, 70 349 applications were received from first-time first-year students for 5 200 places while at the University of Johannesburg, spokesperson Herman Esterhuizen said 130 000 applications were received for about 10 000 places.
“This number of spaces available is in accordance with the formal Enrolment Plan approved by the department of higher education and training,” Esterhuizen said.
And with unemployment being our constant companion, the matriculants will struggle to find employment, said Stanford Mazhindu of the United Association of South Africa trade unions.
“While eagerly waiting for their results, school leavers are competing with more than three million unemployed youths between the ages of 18 and 24 to find work and generate an income,” Mazhindu said.
“My message to matrics or others that are leaving school this year is to not view yourself as helpless, but to think practically.
“Even if you must work for a pittance and live with your parents, get that initial work experience. It will open doors for you.
“Fact is that the world owes you nothing, but you owe yourself everything.”
Mazhindu said nobody was owed a job.
“Young people must take care that perceptions about the job market do not blind them for job opportunities. They must take responsibility for their own future. It is all about a willingness to do your part in the world,” he said.