Newspaper clipping – The Daily News – 3 July 2009

School bodies slate Nzimande

Hard-working pupils who buckle under pressure could be given a second chance or this could open the flood-gates for mediocrity in education, said chairman of the provincial Parents Association in response to Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande’s recent comments.

Nzimande called for all matriculants, irrespective of their passes, to be accepted to study at university. There is a need, he said, to find ways and means of identifying those who have potential even if they do not get a matric exemption.
“If we don’t do that we are sentencing a lot of our students to a life not in education, not in training, not in employment.”

The higher education review committee is looking at the possibility of introducing university entrance exams to give students who failed to get an exemption a second chance at studying for a degree.

Universities have complained about matriculants lacking the academic skill to cope with higher learning, but Nzimande said they have a responsibility to help them adjust.
“We are not suggesting universities lower their standards but also they should be asking themselves what role should they play to ensure that capable students can access higher education.”

Sayed Rajack, chairman of KwaZulu-Natal’s Parent Association said on the one hand Nzimande’s comments would give pupils a second chance, especially those who have the ability to excel but did not because of matric stresses. On the other hand, it would allow for mediocrity, placing “further stress on lecturers and academic staff as universities already have a high drop-out and failure rate among first year students.”

Rajack suggested re-channelling government funds into schools, particularly grades 10 to 12 as these pupils “lack the drive to excel” and schools are under-staffed in the maths, science and computer science fields.

Anthony Pierce, KZN spokesman of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa, said in context Nzimande’s comments have merit, but one has also to take quality of education into account. He said universities have introduced bridging courses for students having difficulty adjusting to higher education.

Gonna Pillay from the KZN Principals Association said each university faculty has a list of entrance requirements and while many may fill these requirements they are not necessarily accepted because of the number of positions available. She supported Nzimande’s comments if he is suggesting that all pupils who meet tertiary entrance requirements be accepted.