How to cope with repeating a grade
Failing a grade is not the end of the world.
Two new mobile classrooms will help alleviate overcrowding at Mseki Primary School in Gugulethu. (Ashraf Hendricks, GroundUp)

GETTING your results and finding out that you have failed may be extremely depressing. While your friends move on to the next grade, you feel like you’re left behind trying to pick up the pieces. Repeating a grade can also feel like a slap on the face, but it’s really not the end of the world.


Failure is demoralising, often leaving you feeling helpless, sad, angry and disappointed in yourself. It’s normal to feel this way. However, speak to someone who will understand your emotions and show you that there is still life after failure.


Be honest with yourself and ask hard questions. Did you study hard enough or were you out socialising and watching too much TV? Did you participate in class discussions during the year? Can you blame personal issues or illness? Remember that reasons are not excuses, so don’t hate yourself if you failed because you lost focus along the way. Fashion buyer, Fuzile Mdletshe, says despite a local library being a five minutes’ walk from her home, she never went to study there. Without a quiet place to focus, she failed a grade.

“Repeating a grade was evidence of missed opportunities,” she says. “I know that stepping up to make good use of the opportunities presented to me requires some effort on my part and moving out of my comfort zone.”

Sarah Khanyile knows first-hand the pain felt by a child who has to repeat a grade. “At 12 years old, my daughter was already capable of organising her school life. I was surprised to learn that she was going to repeat her Grade 10,” says Sarah.     


Her role as a parent was to help her daughter weather the storm. As Thandi Tyhali, a learner support specialist at Career Planet, says, “For teenagers, repeating a grade has negative effects on their self-confidence and may reinforce some bad messages that were made by the teachers and peers in the past. From Grade 6, learners start to compare themselves to others in terms of who is smartest or not. That’s where feelings of shame and failure start developing.”


Without doubt, the day you return back to school in the new term will be tough. But as Linda Ngwenya, teacher in Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria advises, you have a head start on everyone else in your class. “Experience will have taught you that you can do it too. You may have realised that if other pupils can study by candlelight, then you can do it too.”

Thandi adds, “It takes great commitment to get good results. Pupils must also have friends who are serious about progressing in life.” You may feel like your world is crumbling, but as Michael Jordan, who is regarded as the greatest basketball player of all time, once put it, “I’ve failed over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.”


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