White River - Mpumalanga Education MEC Reginah Mhaule was shocked to find matric pupils without any teachers at the Jerusalema High School, on Wednesday.
Mhaule was conducting surprise visits to schools in the Ehlanzeni district that achieved a pass rate of less than 20 percent last year, to assess the state of readiness for the final exams this year.
"I was so shocked. I nearly cried because I felt pity for the children. How can teachers leave when matriculants are only two weeks away from writing their final exams?" said Mhaule.
When her team arrived at the school, the MEC found pupils wandering around as their teachers were away on a trip to the Mbombela 2010 stadium.
She said the school principal and management team would be summoned to explain their behaviour to the provincial department.
"We don't discourage school trips, but their timing is totally wrong. I want these kids to pass with flying colours; that's why I expect everybody to do their job."
Mhaule started her visit at two schools in Bushbuckridge and then to White River, where she visited the Jerusalema and Khumbula high schools.
At Khumbula, she found all in order, with pupils quietly attending classes.
However, she was shocked that some pupils did not know what an MEC is, but only knew former Education Minister Naledi Pandor.
In the accounting class, she found that the only high profile political leader the pupils knew was former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel. They did not know who had succeeded Manuel, which worried her.
"You must gain basic and general knowledge. You must think out of the box, don't just be stuck on numbers when you don't even know what's happening in your world.
"When you know who is in government, at least when you pass your matric and don't have money for higher education you can approach your finance MEC and ask for a bursary in her office," said Mhaule.
Mhaule encouraged the pupils to use the two weeks left to prepare for their exams.
The MEC started her surprise visits in the middle of this year and said she had seen a steadily growing commitment to teaching and administration.
More than 55 000 full time candidates and 2 000 part-time candidates in Mpumalanga have registered to write their final matric exams, which starts on 26 October.
Mhaule has previously assured that, unlike last year, there will not be any delay in the publishing of final matric results.
A help desk will allow school principals to contact the department directly to query any result delays, while the introduction of a centralised script library will also facilitate the easy retrieval of exam scripts and mark sheets.
After the 2008 debacle, former education minister Naledi Pandor established a task team to investigate the cause of the delays in issuing all the matric results on time.
The investigation found that the majority of the 701 delayed results from across the country were from Mpumalanga.
Some of the delays were a result of the introduction of the new outcomes based education curriculum at matric level and because of problems implementing the integrated examination computer system.
This year, the department had appointed more examination managers and was looking at establishing a data back-up system.
Last year, Mpumalanga achieved a matric pass rate of just 52 percent.