THE matric results and the fanfare have come and gone, and reality begins to sink in as pupils (both successful and unsuccessful) face the reality of the options available to them in terms of future career plans. The sad reality is that many will not be able to pursue their dreams yet due to primarily the lack of compliance with entrance criteria (points system).
Critical to this is the minimum requirement of mathematics for most sought after career options. These are study areas that are mostly required by commerce and industry.
Even with the choice of following a career at FET colleges, invariably mathematics becomes critical for career choices that are required by industry such as artisans and technicians.
Sometimes a perception is created that when a pupil fails to make it to university, the FET route is a fallback as if this is going to be automatic. FET college careers, in particular those that are needed by industry and commerce, are as serious as academic careers at university and are by no means just easy fallbacks.
If one has to prove this, just check the pass rate and outcomes of National Certificate Vocational (NCV) engineering programmes at any of our local FET colleges. This pass rate determines the rate at which artisans will be produced in line with the targets set by minister Blade Nzimande in the National Skills Development Strategy.
The critical point I am making is that mathematics is the key to most career choices, and therefore in the fanfare of congratulations and satisfaction with the pass rate of last year's matric class, a reality check should be guided by the performance and outcomes in mathematics above all else. If we have not made progress in this area, I am afraid without sounding pessimistic, our jubilations are misplaced.
What do we have to do then, given these mathematical challenges which are dire for black children? My anecdotal view is that since excellent mathematics teachers are in short supply, more effort needs to be made to ensure there are enough extraordinary and additional efforts that will bring all pupils who are mathematically challenged to a reasonable level of performance in mathematics.
I am underlining reasonable because my other simplistic view is that those pupils who are naturally gifted, whether black or white, urban or rural, or under any circumstances, will sail through as has been proven with excellent individual performances that were highlighted in provinces such as Limpopo and other areas that can be described as historically disadvantaged. There are programmes that are geared for the top performers and these programmes tend to concentrate on the top of the crop while leaving the poor to average mathematics performer behind.
I hope I can be proven wrong in this assertion. My proposition is that there should be accelerated and enhanced programmes, and recognition of all the pockets of mathematics additional efforts that are being pursued by committed individuals who are helping pupils struggling with mathematics.
I am aware that these pockets of patriotism are taking place in private homes of these individuals and at various times inclusive of weekends. They give individual attention to struggling pupils and assist them to have a chance to pass mathematics.
Usually a minimum fee that varies from individual to individual is paid. For parents who really invest in the future of their children, these fees and the petrol money to ferry the children around is well worth it.
My appeal is that this should be encouraged rather than waiting for the government to deliver in the classroom as it will take a long time before these backlogs are addressed. I would also make an appeal to all excellent mathematicians who might be retired or left the classroom to pursue other careers to assist with these challenges.
Sakhiwo Zamisa, Cotswold Extension, Port Elizabeth