At the beginning of every year, thousands of people gather at a certain venue to listen to the MEC for education in Limpopo announcing the grade 12 results. Amongst the thousands are, politicians, religious leaders, chief directors and directors in the department of education responsible for schools, teacher unions, principals, teachers, school governing bodies and many invited stakeholders and academics. To add to the list, media, both print and electronic is invited, in particular, the three main radio stations in the province, which are: Thobela FM, Phalaphala FM and Munghanalonene FM. So, millions get to read and listen to this announcement. This was the case on 05 January, 2017.
The list of guests and listeners of radio, to readers of newspapers, suggest that the intelligentsia of the province and beyond is exposed to the grade 12 results. What baffles me, is that no one has ever questioned the criteria applied to select the best schools in the province. Not one academic or statistician in the province has scrutinised the reason why one school in the province could obtain position one for more than a decade. It is worth noting that, it is the only one with that record, in the whole country! Even the media, which is supposed to be the eyes and the ears of those that cannot see and hear, is unable to correctly analyse this anomaly.
My question is, "Is it by design or omission that Limpopo Department of Education continues to deny other schools the right to fairly contest the position of the best performing school in the province?"
Any criteria used to determine the best in a group, should be fair and objective and not designed to favour others or give others an advantage over other competitors. This is the case in point in case of Mbilwi High School. Seemingly, the trend of this unjust criterion is about to used to judge independent schools.
The Limpopo Department of Education claims to recognise best performance through the number of bachelor exemptions obtained. A farce! It should be the number of bachelors obtained against the number of learners who wrote. When the Minister of Education Angie Motshekga announces the best performing provinces, she does that based on the overall percentage pass. She however acknowledges those provinces that produce a higher number of bachelors.
This criterion is also used in Limpopo to determine the best districts and circuits. For reasons best known to the Limpopo Department of Education, the criterion is not used in the selection of the best schools in the province. To use the overall pass percentage gives all provinces, districts and circuits a fair chance in the competition. Provinces, districts and circuits with a few number of candidates, for example the Northern Cape Province and Waterberg District in Limpopo, are given a fair chance to compete, otherwise, they would forever obtain the last position if this Limpopo criterion is used at those levels.
Let me demonstrate:
Hereunder is the Limpopo Department's positions of the best independent schools in the province:
Top 3 Independent schools
This category recognises schools that obtained the most bachelor passes. Each of these schools must have a minimum of 50 or more candidates that wrote examinations.
This suggests that all independent schools with 50 or more candidates will be treated the same, but this is not the case in determining the best. With this above criterion, there is no way, both number 2 and 3 could compete with number 1, simply because, their candidate numbers differ! So, Northern Academy will always win! If we were to use a fair criteria, which according to me, would be the number of bachelor passes against the number of candidates, this would show the percentage of bachelor passes per school. Hereunder is how the table will look like:
The above table shows a fair and just criterion to judge the performance of these schools. It indicates the percentages of bachelors obtained by the schools, regardless of the number of candidates. (All of them have 50 or more candidates). This is how it should be done and not what the Limpopo Department of Education wants us to believe. If you look carefully on the performance of Northern Academy, you will realise that, more than half of their candidates (326) did not obtain bachelors. So, how does it the become the best? If you were to consider all the results of independent schools, you may find that, it is not even the third best in the province in that category!
Let me now show the 'Mbilifwication' of results as the 'undisputed best performing school' in the province. The table below, is also as presented by the Limpopo Department of Education:
Top three public schools in the Province in terms of Bachelor Passes
This category caters for top three schools in the Province with 50 or more candidates and in terms of bachelor passes.
This table indicates how the positions of these three schools would be, if the correct usage of the criterion was fairly and justly applied. It means that, both Thengwe and Mbilwi could not even be amongst the best three in the province given the percentages of bachelor passes they produced.
This, I am sure, has been the situation for the past decade, where everybody was made to believe that Mbilwi was and still is, the reigning champion of Limpopo schools. What a big lie! It is said that, "A lie repeated several times, may become the truth." Was this the intention? I hope those that have long realised the unfairness of this criterion, were not discouraged to perform better at their schools.
On the basis that, I have the best 20 performing schools as provided by the department, one would attempt to reproduce the best three schools with 50 or more candidates. The table would look like this:
The above schools are former model C schools, which are presently referred to, as quintile 5 schools. If I would assume that the purpose of the dreaded criterion used by the Limpopo Department of Education, is to give the rural and township schools an advantage, then we are doing it wrong.
I have realised that in 2016, Dendron High School registered more candidates that it has never registered. I hope this was not in an attempt to compete with Mbilwi. In all its years, Mbilwi registered around 400 candidates. The other school is Makgoka High, which, in terms of Limpopo, is number 14, with a pathetic 20% bachelor pass percentage! Who should celebrate something this mediocre?
Let me provide an example: In a PSL league log, if two clubs were competing for position one, and before their last game they were equal in points and goal difference, and in the last game the other one wins by 8 to 7 goals and the other one wins by 3 goals to 0, you cannot say the first one wins because of more goals. The fact is, the latter's goal difference is 3 and the other one is 1, regardless of the number of goals scored.
In conclusion, it is important that the Limpopo Department of Education acknowledges this horrible mistake and rectify it from the incoming Class of 2017! Lest we become the laughing stock of the nation. Those that do not believe this, may go back a decade and analyse those results.