The minister of Basic Education, Ms Angie Motshekga says the demand for space in schools continues to plague the department as, nationally, a total of 8 982 Grade 1 pupils remain unplaced, despite public schooling having resumed on Monday.
According to Motshekga, her ministry has been inundated with calls from concerned parents regarding school placements. The figures for Grade 8 pupils, who have yet to be placed in schools, sits at 16 117.
Speaking at a media briefing on Sunday, Motshekga said provinces were hard at work in resolving the issue of pupil placements.
“It was agreed that provinces would work with speed to place all the pupils in the next week. The department also has to deal with the issue of Covid-19, as 1 169 teachers have died since the pandemic began. This year alone, up to Friday, February 12, the number of deceased teachers stands at 159, while for non-teaching staff we have recorded 63 deaths,” she said.
On readiness for opening, Motshekga said most schools were ready to receive pupils, except for cases were schools were damaged because of storms or criminal damage. The department has had over 1 700 schools damaged due to vandalism since the beginning of the national lockdown in March last year. She further highlighted that most schools had access to water except in the North West, where 22 schools have no access.
Basic Education director-general Mathanzima Mweli, meanwhile, indicated that the school drop-out rate for 2020 stood between 10 and 15%. He said these figures had to be taken in the context of the pandemic, as some parents had opted to home school their children. In general, the school drop-out rate averages at about 10 and 12%.
On matric exam leaks, a presentation given by the department’s National Investigations Task Team (NITT) has found the 2020 national matric exams were not compromised. The unit was tasked with investigating the extent of the mathematics paper 2 and physical science paper 2.
Hugh Amoore, the chair of NITT, said the investigation was extensive and found that the two papers were leaked through WhatsApp groups. He said the full extent of the leaks may never be known, but investigations have shown that widespread leaks did not occur.
During the probe, investigators spoke to pupils who were involved in the incident. The first paper leak for mathematics paper 2 was shared in a WhatsApp group of about 236 pupils. The physical science paper 2 reached about 62 pupils through the screen shots sent.
Amoore said investigations of marking showed that some of the mark scores of pupils who were in the WhatsApp group were high. He said there was no evidence that the pupils benefited from prior access to the leaked papers.
Statistical analysis had also not shown an unusual performance in the two subjects compared to previous years. The investigation also found there was no evidence of collusion amongst the candidates, said Amoore.
Amoore said the investigations team had presented the findings and recommendations to the department and Umalusi – the institution responsible for certifying the results.