WITH less than 24 hours left before the matric class of 2021 write their final exams, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said the department was ready to present a credible final exams compared to last year.
Nearly 900,000 pupils in public schools have registered to write exams at 11,000 centres across the country.
Those in private schooling started last month with more than 13,000 candidates registered.
The department said it believes that it has come a long way in dealing with setbacks presented by the pandemic and is better prepared this year.
Officials have also warned that those involved in irregular conduct will be heavily penalised.
Last year, the exams were rocked by a cheating scandal when mathematics and physical science papers were leaked.
To make sure this does not happen again, the department has introduced stricter security measures which include that pupils’ cellphone details be recorded in electronic devices registered by schools.
The department has also published a WhatsApp number where the public could confidentially report any suspected irregularities.
The education sector is one department that has had to bear the brunt of the pandemic.
Over the past 18 months, schooling methods have had to be revisited numerous times.
In the Western Cape, 73,966 candidates will participate, writing at 486 exam centres across the province.
This includes both full time and part-time candidates.
A total of 1,887 invigilators have been employed.
Spokesperson to Western Cape MEC for education, Kerry Mauchline, said invigilators were not required to be vaccinated.
“We, nonetheless, encourage all eligible residents of the Western Cape to get vaccinated, to protect themselves and others from serious illness,” said Mauchline.
Mauchline said many lessons were learned from the 2020 NSC examinations that could be applied to the 2021exam period.
“The Department of Basic Education (DBE) has provided a detailed set of Covid-19 guidelines that must be followed at all exam venues, including physical distancing, sanitising hands and surfaces, wearing masks, and daily screening,” she said.
“It also outlines the procedures for learners with symptoms. The application of these protocols has been included in the training of the various exam officials.”
During this time, exam venues would not be used for other purposes, Mauchline said.
“Separate venues are being arranged for any learners who test positive for Covid-19 but are still well enough to write their exams and would like to do so.”
Last Friday, MEC Kwazi Mshengu visited Lamontville High School, south of Durban, where pupils signed a pledge not to participate in activities that will compromise the integrity of the matric exams.
“Apart from the work we have put in place to make sure all officials are properly trained to conduct credible examination process, I am sure you have seen our pupils signing a pledge committing themselves not to participate in activities that will compromise the integrity of the 2021 NSC exams,” said Mshengu.
“While pupils were signing the pledge at Lamontville High, similar activities were taking place, not only in KwaZulu-Natal but throughout the country.”
“We are persuaded that our officials and pupils are going to be equal to the task,” he said.
Invigilators were trained to focus on the prevention of malpractices, loss of answer scripts and accountability for question papers
The department compiled a comprehensive plan to manage “all kinds of risks” related to examinations.
“Our plan looks at measures to prevent a compromise of the printing job in case of load-shedding, looks at our working relationship with the joints operations committee, the delivery of examination material during days with inclement weather and a possible escalation of exam malpractices,” he said.
“As a department we are serious about conducting examinations that are without irregularities. You can report any suspected irregularities in the NSC examinations to the WhatsApp number 069-335-2818. We can assure you the information provided in this regard will be handled with confidentiality.”
Mshengu was pleased to report that more girls were writing the examinations than boys this year.
“This is important to us because we have always maintained that if we are to realise gender parity and win our struggle against patriarchy and unjust power relations, we need to expose our pupils to opportunities and equip them with skills that will empower them for the future.”
He said the 2021 academic year was difficult for his department and pupils.
“When we started this academic year later than normal, we already knew this year would be a year like no other, but we got our strength from the class of 2020, who being the first cohort to have an academic year marred by Covid-19, managed to weather the storms and succeed against all odds.
“The closure of schools, alternating of classes and other challenges that came as a result of Covid-19 meant that as a department we needed to do things differently and pull out all stops to ensure the class of 2021 had a fighting chance in life.
“As if the difficulties visited on us by Covid-19 were not enough, the civil unrest we experienced as a country did not help the situation. Despite all that, the KwaZulu-Natal department of education is ready for the 2021 NSC examinations.”
On Monday, DA in KZN called for an urgent oversight inspections of marking centres as in the province as matriculants began their exams.
The DA called on KZN Education portfolio committee Chairperson, Sifiso Sonjica, to ensure that oversight visits to matric examination centres are prioritised once Local Government Elections are concluded.
The party’s spokesperson on education Dr Imran Keeka said the DA believed that it is extremely important that the portfolio committee spends a few days assessing matric examination centres as part of its oversight duties.
“The functionality of centres is critical if results are to be verified by watchdog body Umalusi,” said Keeka.
“It is also critical in terms of ensuring that everything is running smoothly so that there are no unnecessary delays in the release of matric results. Furthermore, it must be assessed whether all resources are in place, in line with last weeks’ media briefing by KZN Education MEC, Kwazi Mshengu, and his Department.”
KZN’s matric class of 2021 has had more than its fair share of trials to endure.
From almost the beginning of their Grade 11 year they have had to adjust to a very different academic programme as a result of Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdowns.
* Inside Education