Parliamentiary Liaison Office: Telling Statistics

RESPONSE January 9, 2012
Every year, with the release of the matric results, statistics take centre stage while the hard work of the successful matriculants is often just a sideshow. So, before we join many others in the national sport of analysing the matric results, let us celebrate the successes of those who managed to pass despite the serious hardships that many of the candidates had to overcome during the long journey to matric. It is an achievement just to make it to matric, considering that of the 923 463 pupils who enrolled in grade 1 in 2000, only 348 117 passed matric in 2011 (that is 38% of those who started school 12 years ago).
The American humorist, Evan Esar, famously quipped that statistics is the “… only science that enables different experts using the same figures to draw different conclusions”. We cannot, however, despite the insight of Mr Esar, completely ignore the statistics because they point to some of the underlying problems inherent in our education system. The celebration by Minister Angie Motshekga of the ‘increase’ in the pass rate – up from 67.7 percent in 2010 to 70.2 percent in 2011 – does not, unfortunately, paint the full picture. There were 41 453 fewer full-time candidates who wrote matric in 2011 compared to 2010, and fewer candidates passed (in 2010 364 147 passed, compared to 348 117 in 2011). Also, some 20 716 fewer candidates wrote and passed maths (263 034 in 2010; 224 635 in 2011).
Both the high rate of attrition over the 12 years of schooling, and the fact that there has been a decline in matric candidates in absolute terms, are seriously concerning. If fewer and fewer pupils are going to get as far as even attempting matric, then despite healthy increases in the pass rate we will still be left with huge numbers of young people for whom the doors of further learning are effectively shut.
Moreover, the overall pass rate is a poor indicator of the quality of education; a better indicator would be the percentage of candidates who qualified to study for a Bachelor’s degree. Here there has been a marginal increase in 2011, but a more significant rise of 4% when compared to 2008. On the face of it, this is quite an achievement, but sadly only a handful of those qualifying to study at a tertiary institution will do so; and of those who enter a tertiary institution, at least a third are likely to drop out in their first year, and after five years just one in three will have a degree.
Is there hope? Yes there is. The MECs for Education in the best-performing provinces tell us that the top schools have a few things in common – strong school leadership with dedicated principals, department heads and SGBs; teachers that have good content knowledge and a good understanding of the best teaching techniques; responsible and disciplined students; and families and communities
that take an active interest in the education of their children. The challenge is to find ways of making these factors the norm in our schools, rather than the exception.
Kenny Pasensie

Pastoral Letter at the beginning of 2012

Pastoral Letter at the beginning of the Year of the Lord 2012 on Marriage, “Lapsed” Catholics, Lent and Ordination
Dear brothers and sisters,
Greetings and blessings from your Bishop! At the beginning of the new year I wish to express my joy about the cooperation that we experienced in various ways in 2011: At Community Weeks, with the training and the blessing of leaders, through your generous contributions to church dues and other collections and through your participation in our theme of the sacrament of marriage. The commitment of the executive of the ADPC was excellent. Thank you very much for all your genuine involvement for the sake of Jesus Christ.
I am delighted about the integrity and loyalty that many showed when we went through difficult times in 2011. Every Church has her procedures. I am glad that many Catholics understand and respect the workings of our Church, its rules, roles and procedures and the different levels of decision making. The meeting with the priests in November 2011 of four Archbishops and Bishops representing the Bishops’ Conference was intended to emphasise them. Some wondered about the possible damage done to the reputation of the Church. I like to respond by saying: The way how we deal with a crisis will show our strength and actually boost our reputation. St Paul reminds us of our task of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:16-21). Here we have the great opportunity to show that we are experts in this.
We have got heroes: The couples married in Church. They show the power of the spirit by doing daring things: They trust in the love of God that unites them. They reveal the mystery of God’s love. They make it visible. When we talk about marriage in our Catholic Church we talk about something that is very different form the civil marriage or the cultural marriage. We talk about faith. We proclaim God who is love. He is the expert in love. If we want to succeed in love we must follow him. We must forget about all the cheap talk about love that is only a disguise for selfishness. As God does not abandon his covenant with us, so married couples do not abandon their covenant. We have all reason to talk nicely about marriage. We are called to support married couples in many ways. The meetings of Marriage Encounter are one way of supporting and growing in married life. Please make use of them.
In 2012 we will focus on the many Catholics who do not come to church. Some communities told me that some 90% of the adults do not attend church life. Luke (Lk 15:8-10) tells us a touching story. A woman had ten drachmas and lost one. Frantically she searched for the one till she found it. The point of the story is not that she searched for one drachma. It is anyway worth only a few cents. But she had ten. The number ten indicates completeness. This completeness was lost. She did everything to restore this completeness.
We can ask like this woman: Are we complete as a Church? Whom are we missing in order to be complete? In some communities it may be even “nine drachmas” (90%) that are missing. Do we miss their talents, their contributions, their questions, their ideas, their faith?
We may also ask: Could these “lapsed” be missing something in our Church, in our communities? Do they perhaps miss the experience of the love of God in good liturgies? Do they miss proper preaching? Do they miss reconciliation, the sacraments? Do they miss a community that is supportive of one another and bears the burdens of one another?
These people who are sometimes called “lapsed” may help us actually to examine and perhaps to improve our practice of faith. Could is be that we became complacent? Could it be that we forgot to talk about the beauty of our faith and assets as Catholics? Could it be that we lost our missionary endeavour? Could it be that we have to rekindle the candle of our love of God? Could it be that some just enjoy bickering?
I believe that we should feel like the women searching for the one drachma. We cannot be quiet while missing not only one but sometimes nine drachmas. We must long to become complete. We have to come together. In 2012 we will look for compassionate and friendly ways achieve this. ADPC and Regional Meetings will address this theme. The SCCs and sodalities are called to participate actively in this move. This will need much listening to the stories of people. We do not have to threaten them. We must strive to make the love of God an experience in the concrete lives of people. So we can bring the light of faith into our lives.
On Ash Wednesday we will begin the time of Lent. It is a very special time for us as Catholics. We can be proud of our lenten customs that help us to deepen our faith and rid our lives of evil. One of the evils is disrespect. Many people do not know anymore how to show respect. For life to thrive we need respect: We need respect for one another and for God. I want to highlight three Lenten practices:
Almsgiving is an expression for respectful solidarity. We show this respect for instance through a generous contribution to the Lenten Appeal. By assisting the poor we encounter Christ (cf. Mt 25:31-40).
Confession in Lent is an expression that we want to restore respect for our Christian values that we may have abandoned for selfish reasons and in favour of vices.
Fasting can be a very valuable exercise. It restores the respect for our faith. Many things tend to take priority in our lives; we feel the urge to possess them. By fasting we refrain from the temptation to see our own worth through material things. We dare to depend ultimately on God, our creator. It is an illusion that we depend on all sorts of things in order to gain acceptance and respect. Fasting and doing Gospel Sharing during Lent helps us to renew our relationship with Jesus Christ. We become respected for the integrity, the values and convictions that we show in our decision making.
When we refrain from meat on Fridays (and meat is very dear to many), then we really do something for our spiritual and bodily life. If we choose to eat fish instead we give special nutrition to our body that only fish contains and pay respect to it. And by eating fish we use the old symbol for Christ, the fish. The letters for Fish in Greek symbolise: Jesus, Christ, God, Son, Saviour. And we eat what Jesus ate with his disciples after his resurrection: fish. So we express our faith in Christ. He is the way that in truth leads to life to the fullest. We also express respect towards Christ who died on Friday for us by saying: We love you and we depend on you.
Lent indeed helps us to allow God to work in us and through us. His will be done!
For Saturday before Pentecost we plan the ordination of our Deacons Mlulami Matiwane and Themba Goliash to the order of priesthood. We need sincere priests who love the Church and the people of God, who feed the sheep and don’t eat the sheep. We need priests that live their vows with integrity and commit themselves wholeheartedly. We need role models that give orientation to our lives. We need priests that challenge us not to condone and go along with all the habits and practices that destroy lives, communities and families. Please accompany the two with your prayer. Please accompany all our priests with your support. Good priests are the seedbed for vocations. For them also pray.
Looking at all this is good news. It is part of evangelisation. All this will accompany us with the ongoing interdiocesan consultation. Please take your time and talk about the different sections of this letter in the meetings of your SCC, sodality and PPC.
May God bless you abundantly, your Bishop
+ Michael Wüstenberg
Bishop of Aliwal

A Pastoral Letter about UN Conference on Climate Change

A Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Bishops of Southern Africa on the occasion of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP 17)  to the Catholic Community and to all people of goodwill

Beloved people,South Africa is about to host the 17th United Nations Conference on Climate Change (Conference of the Parties—COP 17) which will be held in Durban from 28 November–9 December 2011.

Our precious world and the whole of Creation – which God gave us and “saw was very good” (Gen 1:31) – is now threatened by climate change. While climate change is a process that occurs naturally, there is now general agreement that human activities are causing it to happen much faster than it naturally would. This is due to far too many ‘greenhouse gases’ like carbon dioxide and methane being emitted into the atmosphere

  • through our excessive burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil, petrol and gas;
  • through the chopping down and burning of forests that should be absorbing carbon dioxide; and
  • through intensive livestock farming.

We are all already feeling the effects of climate change which has dire consequences especially for the poor, while endangering all forms of life on the planet.

This global climate crisis poses a great spiritual challenge to all Christians, people of all faiths, and all people of goodwill as it is the consequence of the destruction of God’s creation in which we have all participated in one way or another. It calls for a change of mindset, and a change of lifestyle to reduce our dependence on fossil-fuel energy like coal and oil.

We call on all parishes, communities and organizations at local, regional and national levels, as well as individual Catholics

  • to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions by using your own properties productively to grow trees that will absorb carbon dioxide;
  • to grow vegetables and crops organically to reduce the use of chemical-based fertilizers; and
  • to share the food thus grown with the hungry and malnourished in your midst.

As this global climate change crisis continues to grow, individuals are also called to link their efforts to those of national governments and the United Nations to achieve the goal of lessening the carbon footprint (which is our contribution to carbon emissions) on the planet for our sake, the sake of future generations and that of all living beings.

The gathering of the world member states at the upcoming UN COP 17 Conference offers a unique opportunity to take crucial decisions that will reduce the causes and impact of climate change.

We therefore appeal to all people to pressurise and encourage the Government of South Africa, which is chairing the Conference in Durban, to support the following resolutions:

  • that global greenhouse gas emissions (especially of carbon dioxide),  the primary factor responsible for climate change, be substantially reduced so that temperature rises remain below 1, 5 º C degree;
  • that present decisions pertaining to economic development be not based on immediate economic needs only, but on the survival needs of future generations;
  • that high emitting industrialized countries meet their obligations to finance developing countries to reduce their own emissions and to adapt to the negative impact of climate change;
  • that South Africa, the world’s 13th highest global emitter of carbon dioxide, demonstrates political will by pledging much higher targets of renewable energy production, by phasing out coal and nuclear production, and by developing the  job creation potential of renewable energy;
  • that the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 be extended and that the treaty becomes a binding agreement;
  • that concrete measures be adopted to monitor the implementation process of the agreements, so that they are adhered to especially by industrialized countries and other large emitters in developing countries.

Finally, we invite you to pray for a successful outcome of the UN Conference on Climate Change, and to lead by example in your own lives:

God, creator of the universe, all life and goodness comes from you.

You have made us in your own image and likeness to care for and use with moderation the goods of the earth.

Yet, we have sinned against You by exploiting natural resources with greed and selfishness, causing great damage to the life on our planet.

Forgive us Lord! Help us to amend our ways and to become more responsible stewards of the goods entrusted to us, mindful also of the needs of future generations.

Come Holy Spirit and renew the face of the Earth!

We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ your Son who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit one God forever and ever. Amen

Yours in Christ,

On behalf of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference,

Archbishop Buti Tlhagale OMI
President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference

See also:

Sale at Ikhala Sterkspruit Campus

Ikhala FET College, Sterkspruit campus is selling skills products to everyone.

From the 15 November to 5 December, we will have open time sale from 8:30 to 16:00.

Come and buy, first come, first serve!
Cabinet making products and Welding products.
Don’t miss this change.
Sterkspruit campus
Emfundweni Street, Zwelitsha Township
Sterkspruit 9762
Tel: 051 611 0205
Fax: 051 611 0298