As Puledi Motswi from Limpopo can testify, not getting over the final hurdle after 12 years of schooling can be devastating. She failed matric twice, but managed to pick herself up and today is permanently employed.
Although the matric results for 2023 in South Africa have recorded an improved 82.9% pass rate, the 17.1% who did not make it should not be forgotten. Learners may feel disappointed, ashamed, or even hopeless and uncertain about their future.
‘I felt like a failure’
Having survived and surmounted this failure, Motswi, now permanently employed, says it’s important to not give up because of one failure and continue the race.
“I was one of the students who made my former high school not get 100% on the matric results. Although I wrote confidently, I didn’t find my name in the newspaper. My disappointment was huge and I felt like a failure.
“I applied to a different school where I could start over again and passed my matric when I was 21. I was over the moon and felt like a big mountain before I had been removed. From there, I went to college to do electrical engineering N1-6. My doors started opening; I got a job, and now I’m very happy to say I’m an independent and permanently employed young lady.”
‘I cried a lot’
Zamatungwa Makene from Gqeberha, who failed her matric in 2020, says she tried again and got a bachelor pass. She advises that giving up should not be an option as trying again and passing is very possible.
“I was devastated after failing matric and cried a lot for the first few days. Knowing myself and my capabilities, I had full belief that I would pass, so it was disheartening when I didn’t. The hardest part was finding an educational institution that would allow me to restart matric. I didn’t want to upgrade my marks. I wanted a second chance,” she shares.
“After trying again, I passed matric and was accepted at UWC, UKZN, and UJ, but because of financial difficulties and non-acceptance by NSFAS, I could not attend. I’m entering my third year as a student studying towards a bachelor of commerce in logistics at Rosebank College. This is after failing matric, repeating matric, financial constraints, and a gap year. IT IS POSSIBLE.”
‘You can fix your mistakes’
Bontle Kwakwa from Pretoria, who also failed her matric in 2020, was allowed to return to the school where she was studying, and regardless of the disappointment and embarrassment, it turned out to be the second chance she needed.
“I was so hurt after failing my matric and I ended up isolating myself from people because I didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. I was so sad and angry at myself for not working hard.”
A setback that can be overcome
“After passing, when I went back to try again, I was excited and had finally made my mom proud. For those who have failed matric, it’s important to know that it’s just one setback in a long life ahead. Go back to school and fix your mistakes; focus on what you want, and you will pass.”
According to Pretoria-based educational psychologist Claudie Munyai, the psychological impact of failing matric is noted as a result of the emotional distress that one experiences due to the disappointment of not having achieved the expected outcome.
She explains that the disappointment is often directed at self as well as from the viewpoint of societal expectations impressed upon oneself and that in essence, affects your self-esteem; you start questioning yourself, your competence, and whether you are good enough. This in turn increases feelings of anxiety and stress due to thoughts about the level of setback concerning peers, the loss of direction and sense of purpose in life.
There is help and support
“The biggest and foremost thing that brings disappointment is that now you are wondering, ‘What am I going to do?’. So there’s that uncertainty about what the future holds. All the pressure of low self-esteem and feeling disappointed after falling matric increases and intensifies the amount of stress and anxiety levels that one can go through.”
Munyai says we are blessed to find ourselves in an era where we are technologically advanced. This is an era whereby resources such as online platforms with self-help tools are readily available for individuals to advance themselves emotionally and receive support with skills.
Advice to take your life back:
- Individuals can access 24-hour helplines such as the one provided by the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) where you can call in and receive counselling from the psychologists and counsellors for emotional support as well as receive tools and appropriate resources that can be helpful in development.
- It’s good for one to take a step back and practice emotional exercises that help with alleviating emotional strain; exercises such as journaling help with self-expression through writing down the thoughts and feelings about what you are going through.
- The practice of simple mindfulness and relaxation exercises that can help you to calm down and regroup so you are able to redirect yourself towards taking the next step in deciding what to do moving forward.
- The Department of Basic Education (DBE) provides information on options and alternative pathways for learners. The DBE Second Chance programme provides students with the opportunity to rewrite matric exams which is inclusive of study materials and support in preparation for the re-exam.
- Look beyond the traditional view of acceptance into University and consider enrolment into vocational schools for vocational courses, such as TVET (Technical and Vocational, Education and Training) colleges. Here you can find a selection of courses that are appetising to you and interests for your future development as a contributor to society.
- Participate in programmes offered within your community to keep busy whilst gaining valuable experience and skills. Such as community centres, NGOs, as well as youth development organisations.
For someone who’s considering giving up, Munyai says although this moment is an overwhelming and painful moment, it is not a setback.
Behind the scenes
“Sometimes we fail because there are challenges in our homes that make it difficult for us to perform at our best. Sometimes we fail because our mental capacity and cognitive skills are not at the expected level of a person who is a matriculant. Sometimes we fail because the subjects we choose do not align with our interests and as a result, don’t stimulate our mind or way of thinking. So I always encourage people to go back to the drawing board.”
Furthermore, she underlines that one cannot go through this journey by themselves.
“The longer you hold on by yourself, the longer it’s going to take you to reach your desired goal. Having support and guidance from individuals who understand and are capable with skills to help you reach your goals even quicker is important. So don’t give up hope! “
Get the Health For Mzansi newsletter: Your bi-weekly dose of kasi health, wellness and self-care inspiration.