Restless, anxious, frustrated, difficult. Just some of the words Mzansi’s Grade 12s use to describe their final year at agri school. But no doubt it’s only the beginning of the many challenges they will face in their careers – something the latest generation of agriculturists-to-be say they are ready to tackle head-on.
Karabo Tshabalala from Seotlong Agricultural and Hotel School in Phuthaditjhaba in the Free State is one of the top achievers who speaks to Food For Mzansi after the matric results was published just days ago.
He says that nervousness occasionally got the better of him but he pulled through and kept his chin up until his final examination.
“Things were good once I started writing other subjects. The challenge was in mathematics, and I used to get fatigue when writing, but I kept on pushing ’til the last paper,” he says.
Tshabalala achieved a bachelor’s pass and has applied at both the North West University and University of the Free State for agricultural studies to pursue his dreams of becoming an agricultural economist.
A teacher at the school, Benjamin Nhlapo, says that the school obtained a 95.7% pass rate following hard work from both teachers and pupils during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic was scary. Leaners and staff members were getting sick and it was difficult to complete lessons on a weekly basis. [And] educators were unable to effectively impart quality knowledge to learners because of the masks.
Learners were also regularly not in full attendance in classes because of family members falling ill. “We also lost [some of] our colleagues. The school was able to mitigate that by organising intensive weekend and holiday extra classes,” Nhlapo says.
It’s raining distinctions
In the Western Cape, James Barnard from the Boland Agricultural High School in Paarl says that he was over the moon when he found out he had obtained distinctions in seven subjects, including agricultural studies.
“I am very happy and grateful for my results, but I must say it took hard work and dedication to achieve these results. I am going to study BScAgric Viticulture and Oenology [vineyard cultivation and winemaking] at Stellenbosch University,” Barnard says.
The school obtained a 100% pass rate for the 13th consecutive year.
Principal Kobus Hartman says that learners pulled off a great performance despite the many challenges they had faced. The school’s aim is now to keep the momentum going and to remain at the top, the principal says.
“It was very difficult to teach during the Covid-19 pandemic. One of the reasons was that there were no extracurricular activities in the afternoon for the pupils, so they were restless and frustrated. They needed that to ease out of the books.”
Hartman adds that keeping the pass rate perfect was not an easy feat as it came with much pressure and, often, parents, teachers and pupils had to make huge sacrifices.
“It was not an easy year. It was very tough but I want to take this opportunity to thank [the learners] for sticking to their guns and giving their all.
“Our aim going forward is to always maintain the 100% pass rate and to improve on the average pass on the different subjects. We will always work towards improving on that. We have excellent teachers at our school.”
Rural schools excel despite challenges
The Principal of PH Moeketsi Agricultural High School in Taung in North West, Moshebiemang Serei, says that as a rural school they feel very happy for having achieved a pass rate of 93.8%.
“It was not easy. The rotational attendance timetable was not really working in our favour. We had to come up with [mitigation] strategies [as] we could no longer afford to lose days of learning. There was a lot of catching up to do.”
What’s more is that community members sometimes put pressure on them to close the school temporarily due to positive Covid-19 cases among learners.
“Another aspect we had to endure was the cost of running the school during Covid-19. The department [would] bring 20 litres of sanitiser for the whole term [and] it [would] only last for a week. We had to spend money on buying PPE and sanitisers, so the economic impact was huge on us.”
Despite the challenges, a full 53% of the school’s learners obtained bachelor’s passes. Serei says that they are aiming for 100% this year. However, social ills such as drug abuse must first be dealt with.
The beginning of a dream come true
Meanwhile, Lynne van Niekerk, who matriculated from Jan Kriel School in Kuils River, Cape Town, admits that the examinations were tough. But she gave her all.
“I received about 72% in agriculture and for me that was the greatest achievement after giving my all. It was not easy, but I managed.”
Van Niekerk tells Food For Mzansi that she will be doing a paid internship at the Elsenburg agricultural division of Stellenbosch University.
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