As schools close on Wednesday 15 December, we reflect on the 2021 academic year, which got off to a bumpy start with delayed reopening. We have unfortunately had to continue with rotating timetables for the year given the continued risk posed by the pandemic, and it will take us many years to recover the resulting losses. But despite the challenges, there have been some wonderful highlights in 2021.

Our matric Class of 2020 overcame the odds to deliver outstanding results. The pass rate did decline – entirely understandable given the extended school closures of 2020 – but our worst fears did not materialise. In fact, our province saw the lowest impact of any in the country, dropping by only 2.4 percentage points. At the same time, we increased our bachelors’ pass rate (to its highest rate ever), and our retention rate from Grade 10 to matric.

While we eagerly await the 2021 matric results, I wish to thank our officials, school staff, parents, learners and wider school communities for the smooth manner in which the exams proceeded. While there were some difficulties as a result of load-shedding and flooding on the Garden Route, we did not see any lasting disruption that would jeopardise the exams process. I am also pleased to note that there were no incidents of mass cheating or leaks that we are aware of.

Our teachers achieved outstanding results at this year’s National Teaching Awards, with 9 of our 14 provincial nominees placing in the top three nationally. I especially congratulate Dr Mariette Wheeler, Ms Renate van der Westhuizen, and Mr Jevonn Cloete, for winning their respective categories. Previous winners of these awards have gone on to do really great things in education, and we have no doubt that this year’s winners will as well.

Another highlight was the way our staff grabbed the opportunity to receive the Covid-19 vaccine during June and July. Over 47 000 staff members were vaccinated as part of the Basic Education sector rollout in our province, and our officials did a fantastic job to arrange the entire process at short notice, together with our Health colleagues.

I urge anyone who has not yet been vaccinated to do so as soon as possible. Our provincial Department of Health confirmed this week that our province has entered the fourth wave of infections, and we have clear evidence from our province that being vaccinated reduces the chance of becoming severely ill from the virus.

As always, I appeal to everyone to continue to follow the golden rules to keep themselves, and their loved ones, safe over the festive season. While I understand that everyone wants to relax and let their hair down, Covid-19 is not going on holiday. Please remain conscious of the risks posed by social events, and stick to those well-ventilated spaces where mask-wearing and physical distancing is being followed.

Finally, a massive thank you to the school staff and officials that make up the WCED. You have performed your duties incredibly well despite the difficulties of the past year, and your dedication to the education and wellbeing of our children is something to be celebrated. We do not yet know what 2022 will bring, but I am comforted by the knowledge that the entire WCED family continues to work toward fulfilling our mission: to deliver quality education for every learner, in every classroom, in every school in this province.

I wish our staff, learners, and parents a peaceful and safe holiday, and a good rest.

Source: Government of South Africa

News Reporter