One of four high schools schools in South Africa do not offer maths as a subject for grades 10 to 12 due a lack of educational resources.

Issues range from a lack of qualified, competent teachers to a low number of pupils taking the subject up, minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga has said.

This was revealed in a written response to a parliamentary question posed to the minister by Democratic Alliance (DA) member Annette Lovemore over the “denial” of maths education in a number of schools around the country.

“Being denied maths education is a denial of achieving one’s true potential in life, and severely limits our young people from seizing opportunities,” Lovemore wrote on the party’s blog.

“Every one of the top skills listed in the 100 scarce skills list requires learners to have done mathematics. Not offering the subject is denying them the opportunity to pursue any of these careers, and denying the country the opportunity to develop the skills that it needs.”

In her response, the Motshekga included a table with results from the Annual School Survey conducted in 2013. According to the survey, Mpumalanga had less than 50% of its public high schools offering maths in the senior phase, while the Western Cape recorded the most number of schools teaching the subject.

The official numbers are as follows:

Proportion of public ordinary schools offering Mathematics in Grades 10 to 12

 Eastern Cape  63.4%
 Free State  80.3%
 Gauteng  89.5%
 KwaZulu-Natal  72.8%
 Limpopo  85.8%
 Mpumalanga  43.7%
 Northern Cape  69.8%
 North West  84.9%
 Western Cape  91.1%
 South Africa (total)  75.7%

Other reasons stated for the issue include special needs schools not catering to learners due to “the academic limitations of the children” and low number of learners in small rural schools meaning a teacher cannot be appointed to teach maths and the learners having to attending larger “more urban schools” (which for most rural kids, are unfortunately too far and too expensive to enrol in).

Motshekga said government has put some measures in place to tackle the problems.

Among those solutions are the introduction of maths in the grades by providing training to address the “content knowledge deficits” identified in teachers at all affected schools, as well as partnering with the TeachSA non-governmental organisation to place young graduates in school to teach certain subjects beginning in January 2016.

“The Minister’s reasons for this, to date, have been flimsy and unsubstantiated. Our challenge to the Minister is to provide reasons that justify denying our young people the meaningful education they deserve, without hiding behind systemic shortcomings,” Lovemore said.

[Source – DA, image – Steven S]