Of the 1.2 million Grade 1 learners which started school in 2005, only 55,000 passed Mathematics in matric in 2017 with a pass mark of over 50%.
In 2018, this number fell by a further 5,000, which means that only 50,000 matriculants passed Mathematics with a mark of over 50%.
This means that less than 5% of learners who start Grade 1 achieve a good pass mark in Mathematics 12 years later.
This information was shared by Hermann Pretorius, campaign coordinator at the South Africa Institute of Race Relations (IRR).
Pretorius said that while the matric pass rate rapidly improved over the past few years, it only provides a snapshot of the real picture.
To measure the performance of the South African schooling system, the performance over a full 12-year period should be measured.
When this is done, it shows massive holes in the education system which should be addressed very urgently.
International benchmarks equally worrying
The IRR’s recent “Freeing Education” report highlights that South African students lag behind their global peers on a number of levels.
South African pupils, for example, ranked very poorly in the most recent Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS).
In 2015, the performance of South African Grade 5 learners for Mathematics was found to be the second-worst out of 49 countries tested.
Similarly, South Africa did equally poorly in the Grade 8 Mathematics ranking despite local Grade 9 students competing against grade 8 students in other countries.
Very worrying situation
Speaking to CNBC Africa, Pretorius said the problem with poor Mathematics skills among South African learners are widely acknowledged by NGOs and other stakeholders.
He said it is particularly worrying as between 22% and 25% of future employment in South Africa will depend on the financial sector.
Financial sector employment relies heavily on strong numeracy and Mathematical skills, which is exactly where the country is lacking.
Without these crucial skills, it paints a gloomy picture for learners leaving school and looking for stable employment.
The full interview with Pretorius on CNBC Africa is provided below.