The number of pupils who failed matric are enough to fill Soccer City, Loftus and Greenpoint stadiums.
About 580577 pupils sat for the exams last year, and a staggering 228747 failed.
The class of 2009 achieved the lowest pass rate in six years, and the disappointed Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga blamed poor teaching, weak management, lack of leadership and commitment.
Announcing the results in Pretoria yesterday Motshekga said the 60,07percent pass rate, a two percent drop from the previous year, indicated the need to take steps to address the performance of the inefficient system.
Motshekga was, however, upbeat about the increase from 18percent to 32percent in the number of pupils who received a qualifying markfor undergraduate studies
A total of 109697 pupils achieved a qualifying mark foruniversity admission, compared with 107462 the previous year.
"This means that there is a greater number of pupils who will be eligible to access higher education," she said.
Motshekga said performance in mathematics, science and accounting were a cause for concern.
A total of 132988 pupils achieved above 40percent mark for Physical Science compared to 144830 in 2008, and 78784 achieved above 40percent mark for Mathematics compared to 89788 in 2008.
However, Motshekga said it was pleasing that 417 schools had achieved a 100percent pass rate across the country.
"It is also pleasing that the number of schools achieving under 20percent had declined. While performance in languages continues to be a challenge, there has been an improvement in the performance of English first language," she said.
Motshekga also announced that Umalusi had informed her on Wednesday that there was no evidence of a systematic problem in Mpumalanga, and that her department was given the go-ahead to release the troubled province's results along with those from the rest of the country.
Motshekga said her department would take over the administration of the exams in the province until the necessary systems were in place.
With a 3,9percent decline, Mpumalanga scored the lowest with a pass rate of 47,9percent, followed by Limpopo at 48,9 percent, a 5,4percent drop.
KwaZulu-Natal improved its results by 3,5percent, up from 57,6percent to 61,1percent, while the Eastern Cape stabilised at 51percent from 50,6percent in 2008.
Leading the pack is Western Cape at 75,7percent (2,7percent down), followed by Gauteng at 71,8percent (a 4,6percent decline). Free State scored 69,4percent (2,4percent down), North West achieved 67,5percent (down 0,5percent), and Northern Cape scored 61,3percent (11percent down).