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How to help your child deal with matric results that fall short of their expectations

Top matric Langa Senzo in the 2002. Picture: Sandile Ndlovu

Top matric Langa Senzo in the 2002. Picture: Sandile Ndlovu

Published Jan 25, 2022


Top matric Langa Senzo in the 2002. Picture: Sandile Ndlovu

THE decision by the Department of Education to discontinue with the three-decades long tradition of publishing matric results was overruled by the North Gauteng High Court after an application from AfriForum, Maroela Media and Anlé Spies – a 2021 matriculant.

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According to AfriForum’s manager for education rights, Natasha Venter, not publishing the results was going to take away the excitement and the motivation for future matriculants.

“To water down the magnitude of the occasion will eventually undermine the pursuit of excellence in education,” she said in court papers.

“The publication of the results encourages pupils and schools to strive for excellence. Although it is an extrinsic motivator, pupils who achieve their goals should be allowed to share their results (by sharing their examination number) with the world, if they so choose. Pupils who do not want to share their examination numbers are under no obligation to do so.

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“It should be added that the mere non-publication of results in papers will not mean that the pass/failing of a pupil will not become known to his/her community.

“First, as a civil rights organisation, AfriForum cannot allow the government to misapply legislation such as POPIA to prevent information that is in the public interest to be kept secret – public schools are funded by the money of taxpayers, and therefore the public has a right to hold the Department of Basic Education accountable for the use of these resources.

“Second, matriculants should be enabled to access their results as readily as possible, and the media is an excellent avenue to allow for this.

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“Third, the achievements of those pupils who have worked extremely hard, especially keeping in mind the stringent regulations in schools during the pandemic, should not be swept under the rug.”

However, clinical psychologist Matsedeso Nthako has warned that pupils who did not pass matric or may have not done as well as they expected may be subjected to public humiliation, negative comments by teachers, and bullying from peers when results are published.

“These pupils can be left grappling with a host of emotional issues; such as recurrent negative thoughts, anxiety, dysphoria, personal inadequacy, disappointment, added pressure, social rejection, and isolation. Other pupils may seek refuge in drugs and alcohol.

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“Research shows that one of the most devastating psychological effects of matric failure is an increase in suicide cases. Many pupils come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and are faced with other life hardships.

“They carry the pressure to do well in school, so that they can change the economic situation in their homes. Failing matric can become their trigger that can lead to suicide,” she said.

Nthako also pointed out that others may have a history of underlying mental health issues or undiagnosed depression and anxiety disorders which make them more vulnerable to being suicidal, as they struggle to cope with public scrutiny.

Statistics from the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) show that 9.5% of teen deaths in South Africa are caused by suicide. Data from Youth Risk further shows that 13.8% of children have considered suicide as an option, due to the societal or personal pressures that they either face or have placed on themselves throughout their high school career, leading to their exams.

During this time of the year, schools, health professionals, and the department always emphasise to parents and families to be vigilant, give proper counselling to pupils or refer vulnerable children to social workers for professional help.

According to Nthako, we live in a performance-focused society, that makes judgments on people based on what they do and how well they do. And public announcements do correlate with extrinsic motivation, but this heavily depends on the nature and manner in which they are delivered.

“When results are published widely, unfortunately, there's no control over how the broader community will react to those who did not pass their matric exams.

“Those who’ve failed often receive minimal constructive feedback from the public to encourage them that not all hope is lost. It is important to weigh the pros and cons comprehensively and consider the best interests of the child when these decisions are made,” she added.

Side bar

CLINICAL psychologist Matsedeso Nthako shares tips on how you can support your child through the painful period of either failing their matric exams or not performing as they had expected.

– First, parents and loved ones need to recognise that children have different strengths, and should not be compared to other children or their siblings.

– Allow them to acknowledge their failures and feelings. It is okay to feel angry and disappointed.

– Help them to reframe their mindset regarding failure. Let them know that failure is also part of life, and that it can help them learn more about themselves.

– Failure can be a stepping stone towards success. Not getting the outcome they want, does not deny their efforts. It is also crucial to use this time to reflect on your child’s strengths and how to improve on their weak points, which everyone has.

– It’s important to emphasise that failing matric does not make they are a failure as a person, so they should keep trying.

– Help children to explore other options that are available out there, such as supplementary exams, applying for remarks, getting tutoring, bridging courses, and FET colleges.

– Speaking to a career or school counsellor for further guidance and assessment of their strengths can also be a valuable experience.

– Concerned parents can contact organisations that offer counselling services such as Sadag on their toll-free number 0800 567 567 or their 24-hour helpline 0800 456 789.

– Get your children to talk about how they are feeling with someone they trust or a mental health professional.

Sunday Independent