2 800 pupils involved in matric cheating

Durban - More than 2 800 matric pupils and at least 34 teachers and principals in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape were allegedly involved in mass cheating, the education department said in Durban on Friday.

A total of 2 089 pupils in KwaZulu-Natal and 778 pupils in the Eastern Cape were implicated in cheating during the 2014 matric exams, basic education department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga told reporters.

No results from the affected papers, written at 19 KwaZulu-Natal and 14 Eastern Cape exam centres, would be released.

"The decision has been taken to further block all the results. In the Eastern Cape, the results will remain blocked," he said.

Over the past two weeks, the department had conducted interviews with invigilators and pupils.

"People have now committed themselves in writing to answering in a certain way, and in some cases people have implicated themselves even further.

"In other cases people are saying some interesting things that have attracted the attention of those conducting the probe."

He said there had been a few confessions, mostly from pupils. These had strengthened the investigators' evidence.

"There are clear patterns that there was co-ordinated assistance."

The motive for teachers taking part in the cheating had not been determined.

"One of the learners did say that the teachers at the school were lazy. They were not teaching, and many periods passed by without a teacher."

It was suspected that teachers or principals provided help to pupils to make up for the lack of teaching during the year.

Mhlanga said some pupils sitting the exams had crossed out their own answers and inserted identical wrong answers. He conceded it was worrying that, apart from the cheating, the teachers appeared not to know the correct answers.

In one exam question, pupils were asked to explain the similarities between the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Nuremberg Trials, held after WWII.

"It's difficult to have 30 people having the same own words," said Mhlanga.

It was not known when the department's formal hearings into the matter would be completed, but those who had a case to answer would be allowed legal representation. Those found guilty could be banned from writing matric for up to three years.

He said the department was implementing measures aimed at preventing such problems recurring. Mhlanga said he could not reveal details of these as the measures were still being reviewed and needed approval.

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