The Council of Education Ministers recently held an urgent meeting to discuss the progress of the Combined Matric Examinations. Speaking at the meeting, the Basic Education Minister, Ms Angie Motshekga said the department worked hard to reopen schools under difficult circumstances and that it had to move fast in order to provide support to Grade 12 learners while they were also trying to stabilise the system which had lost time. She said because of all these, the matric examinations had to be delayed.
Motshekga said the fact that the department was able to start the matric exams, which were combined and had more than 1 million people writing, was a major achievement. She commended the resilience of both teachers and learners.
“This examination is the largest yet with One Million, Fifty-Eight Thousand Six Hundred and Ninety-Nine (1, 058 699). The exam started in earnest on the 5th of November and will end on the 15th of December 2020. The exam is taking in 8 200 exam centres in all provinces with 80,000 invigilators. Two hundred and sixteen question papers are being written with more than 10 million scripts printed. The sector appointed 45 000 markers in 180 marking centres,” said Motshekga.
The minister reported that everything is going well and the only challenges are the protests and the bad weather conditions in some parts of KwaZulu-Natal. She said that marking will commence on the 4th of January 2021 with the results being released on 22nd of February 2021 and that for the first time, schools will reopen before matric results are released.
Motshekga said the department appreciates the sacrifices and the hard work displayed by officials in all levels of the system, from DBE, PEDs, Districts, circuits and schools. She added that the 2020 academic year will go down as the most challenging, complex and unpredictable year. She said this year required innovation, courage, collaboration, sacrifice and selflessness and therefore she admires the mental strength of the learners and the dedication of the teachers and the officials.
“COVID-19 was initially our challenge with cases continuing to affect the examination but the collaboration with the Department of Health has helped to allow those infected to write the examination. Private invigilators have been appointed to provide services where there were challenges. COVID-19 cases remain a concern but our revised safety protocols are helping to manage the impact. The exam system is now running with minimum challenges in that regard, we are pleased with the progressed made thus far. It seems initial fears and anxiety have now been allayed, we however remain vigilant,” said the minister.
However, the minister said they are very disappointed that a question paper was leaked and some learners gained access to it before it was written. Motshekga said the penalty for offences related to examinations are very serious. She said learners can be barred from writing the NSC exam for up to 3 years from writing the NSC exam and that employees can be jailed.