14 January 2020 | Story Eugene Seegers | Photo Charl Devenish

As announced on 7 January 2020, the Free State has reclaimed the top spot in the National Senior Certificate examination results. The Free State Department of Education (FSDoE) said this year's average pass rate of 88,4% for the province beats its previous record of 88,2%, which was achieved in 2016.

In letters to the Premier of the province, Sisi Ntombela, and the MEC for Education in the Free State, Tate Makgoe, Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Free State (UFS), said on behalf of the institution, “I would like to extend our warmest congratulations to you and your Executive Council on the Free State being the top-achieving province in South Africa. … We also celebrate the fact that two of the ten top-performing districts in the country hail from the Free State.”

Prof Petersen went on to say, “The UFS is proud to be associated with the Free State Province and the Department of Education and salutes MEC Tate Makgoe and his team for the many initiatives in schools across the province that contributed to this year’s outstanding matric results. Some of these include projects presented in conjunction with the university’s South Campus, such as the In-Service (InSET) programme” which empowers Maths as well as Natural and Physical Science teachers to upskill themselves while working as educators.

In addition to this programme, several other interventions are operated from the UFS South Campus, which promotes Open Distance Learning and access to education. These projects include the following:

  • Creative Clubs — This is an upstream intervention focusing on the stimulation of academically stronger-performing learners. Creative Clubs provides an environment to develop their problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and higher-order reasoning.

  • Internet Broadcast Project (IBP) — The IBP supports learners in 88 schools. Lessons for learners in Grades 8 to 12 are transmitted daily to 83 centres spread across the five districts in the Free State. Learners also have electronic access to this material, which is presented for more than 15 school subjects.

  • Schools Partnership Projects (SPP) — Also part of the Social Responsibility Projects at the UFS, the SPP focuses on improving the efficacy and quality of school management, subject teaching, and learner development. Well-trained and experienced mentors visit project schools on a daily basis; during these visits, mentors share knowledge, extra material, and demonstrate the use of technology as a means of improving the standard of teaching. Personal encouragement and professional support are provided to principals and teachers to enhance their skills and knowledge. Mentoring of teachers has the additional benefit of a more sustainable impact: Matric results and bachelor’s pass rates have improved dramatically in these schools.

  • Top Kids — This intervention is aimed at preparing higher-achieving learners for the 4IR. It aims to help these township learners to improve their school performance as well as promoting extracurricular, higher-order cognitive activities. The interventions include, among others, participation in the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists competition and opportunities to learn basic coding, electronics, and robotics.

Hendrik (HS) van der Walt, Head of the UFS Social Responsibility Projects on the South Campus, said they are elated with the matric results of 2019. "We hope to continue our productive partnership with the FSDoE for many years to come, all to the benefit of thousands more learners."

Many of the matriculants supported by these initiatives have been accepted into the UFS and will start registering for their studies from 20 to 24 January 2020.

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