‘Group exam cheating not a new thing’

2015-01-13 00:00

THE chairperson of the education portfolio committee in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature says that group exam cheating has gone on for years in the province, but was seldom picked up.

And Linda Hlongwa believes that the administrative leadership must become credible for the beleaguered KZN education department to transform and bring new plans into effect.

Hlongwa’s remarks were made to The Witness yesterday when the department and its national counterpart, the Basic Education Department, launched a full-scale investigation into a scandal that involves at least 20 exam centres in the province. Pupils and invigilators fingered in the exam fraud will be interviewed in the coming two weeks.

Hlongwa said she first heard of the allegations, made by departmental staff, shortly after the examination period started.

“This is not a new thing. It has gone on here and there, but the markers didn’t pick it up [in the past],” she said.

Hlongwa said she alerted Education MEC Peggy Nkonyeni and department head Nkosinathi Sishi of allegations of group copying as early as November.

Warning that the education committee’s oversight in 2015 would need to be changed and that more difficult questions would be asked, she said the cheating scandal was the result of various factors.

“Teachers were not confident and were never trained in Caps. In some schools, pupils were never given feedback on assignments or schoolwork completed,” sad Hlongwa.

Caps was a new curriculum introduced into the schools in 2012.

Other factors, said Hlongwa, were the department’s poor administrative leadership, internal pressure to achieve “high percentage pass rates while compromising on the quality of education”, and desperate matrics — facing failure from poor preparation by ill-trained teachers — who were prepared to take the risk.

“You can have the best plans, but if you don’t have credible leaders in the department, you won’t get anywhere,” said Hlongwa.

Basic Education Department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said cheating apparently occurred in seven key subjects, including maths, physical science, English and geography.

“There will be an appeal process for all who are implicated. Matrics found guilty will be allowed to bring representation, be it a parent, guardian or lawyer to this process,” said Mhlanga.

He said the issue of criminal charges is an option.

The spokesperson for the exam oversight body Umalusi, Lucky Ditaunyane, said the final report on the investigation would be handed to them on January 27. “From this we will make our recommendations,” he said.

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