THE 2009 matric results are abysmal and no amount of spin can obfuscate the fact that our education system is simply not producing matriculants who can cut it.
The national pass rate is 60,7percent, which is a "slight" decline of 2percent compared with the 2008 results.
Unfortunately, the word "slight" does nothing to soften the blow because the National Senior Certificate is an indicator of the overall education system.
Even Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga has admitted the results were "disappointing" and that "as a country we cannot afford to allow our young people to achieve results that are in the main average or below average".
In all fairness, the minister must be congratulated for her refreshing candour and honest assessment of our education system.
In releasing the results yesterday, she was spot-on about the myriad problems that plague our education system and thus compromise the future of our children. It is rare in South African politics.
Previous education ministers would argue that the results are not poor. I can say this because I have had the misfortune of interviewing almost every single post-apartheid education minister this country has had and I know that a request to account for the drop in the pass rate - however slight - will be met with the standard answer: "Well, if you take into account the number of children who sat for the final exam, you will see that the rate has not dropped. If you take into account the number of pupils who took maths and science ... if you look at it from various angles you will see that the quality of education is improving."
The pass rate is going down, what other angle is there for goodness' sake?
The minister is correct that our examination system is maturing and that, generally, there has been a consistently smooth administration of exams.
Apart from the mess in Mpumalanga, most provinces have acquitted themselves well in the execution of the Senior Certificate exams.
It might also be true that the "cognitive levels in most question papers were of a high standard ... and comparable to the best in the world".
Motshekga thinks it is awesome that more pupils registered for mathematics than for maths literacy. Since when is registering for a subject an achievement? The reality is that there has been an overall decline in the pass rate for maths and, by her own admission, performances in maths, science and accounting "remain cause for concern".
The 580577 full-time candidates who have passed, the 417 public schools that have achieved a 100percent pass rate and the 97,42percent pass rate in private schools must be proof that there is a formula.
Socio-economic factors are obviously a huge stumbling block, but there are schools without resources that prove over and over again that the right approach and attitude of teachers is the key to success.
Teachers who understand the subjects they teach and also go further in motivating and inspiring their pupils will produce top pupils even in poor communities.
It is a shame that last year President Jacob Zuma had to reprimand unionised teachers and remind them that they had to be in class, on time, teaching. If only he had done so when Sadtu members were out campaigning for him to be president and using students as political pawns.
It was this union and Cosas that declared that there would be no peace until Zuma was president.
That might all be in the past but it reflects a disturbing lack of accountability and respect for their profession, which is further reflected in the performance of our pupils. What hope is there for any pupil who is taught by this kind of teacher?
It is a disgrace that some do not understand their mandate and are quick to strike over wages and politics and yet fold their arms when their colleagues are in the news for their sexual escapades with young schoolgirls.
They are failing our children and retarding the future of our country. It is time for the minister to crack the whip, otherwise this time next year, she will be at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, announcing another decline in the matric results.