MANY schools are "dysfunctional" and pupils leave the foundation phase without basic literacy and numeracy skills, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said yesterday.
Motshekga said at a media briefing in Cape Town that the downwards trend in the matric pass rate over the last year - the pass rate fell in all provinces with the exception of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal - was a "cause for concern" and pointed to problems lower down in the system.
"Many of our schools are dysfunctional," she said. "South African learners exit the foundation phase without basic literacy and numeracy skills required to succeed later on.
"The majority of teachers lack the required subject knowledge, are not teaching what they are trained to teach and too often lack the commitment to teach for six-and-a-half hours every day."
Motshekga said time use during school time meant the curriculum was often not covered "as it should be. Homework is not given or marked and teachers seldom provide meaningful feedback to learners on their work," she said.
One of the department's major difficulties was ensuring a culture of accountability among all participants in the education system. Infrastructure challenges at schools were "immense", she said, with a backlog estimated at R140billion.
"We still have many poorly constructed mud buildings that collapse with the first rains," she said.
Graft in provincial departments was disabling the rapid response on addressing such problems.
"Despite budgets to address these issues, the backlog is growing in some provinces rather than being eliminated."
Schools, especially those in urban areas, were being plagued by drugs, alcohol, sexual abuse and violence. Motshekga said the department was taking steps to improve the situation.
She said her department had set a target of having 175000 pupils - up from the current 105000 - pass their national examinations and qualifying for a bachelor's programme at a university by 2014.
By 2014 the department hoped to have 225000 pupils passing mathematics and 165000 passing physical science. - Sapa