Clash of exams looms in SA

2016-10-18 11:33
Education portfolio committee warns about fewer students to assist matric markers.

Education portfolio committee warns about fewer students to assist matric markers. (File)

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The ongoing fees protest at tertiary institutions may impact the marking of matric exams in KwaZulu-Natal.

The portfolio committee on education in KZN has instructed the Education Department to talk to security agencies in the country about how to safeguard the process, and has also instructed the department to start thinking about contingency plans should tertiary students’ delayed exams make them unavailable to assist at the marking centres.

Yesterday, Education Department spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said there were no contingency plans in place at the moment.

Mahlambi said the department would be issuing appointment letters to about 3 000 students, who have been hired to work as examination assistants in the province’s 27 marking centres, before the end of this week.

The department each year hires students to assist in the administration of the marking process. They help to tally and double check marks and with data capturing, and could earn about R11 000 for six weeks of work. Students could also sign on for three weeks and earn about R6 000.

However, should the ongoing turmoil at tertiary institutions drag on to the point where universities have to extend their own examination calendars into December, this could result in a situation where students are unable to assist with the matric marking process that is scheduled to begin early in December.

In such a scenario, most of the students will have to pull out of the contracts as they would still be writing their own exams. The University of KwaZulu-Natal has already revised its calendar after a two-week closure due to student protests.

Mahlambi said the department had already dropped universities as marking centre venues because of the ongoing turmoil. “We could not issue letters of appointment earlier, because the letters need to say which marking centres the students will be working in. They were actually hired in June, but we had to wait for the finalisation of venues,” he said.

The department would revert to using schools as marking centre venues.

“We hope that the fees issue would be resolved by the time the marking process starts. I will be honest: the issue of the fees protest has caught us off-guard.

“But this is not the time to start pressing panic buttons and change how we do things. We will continue to monitor the situation. We still have November,” he said.

Mahlambi said the department had confidence that the students would not disrupt the marking process should the fees issue not be resolved by the time the marking process starts.

However, the education portfolio committee has raised concerns about the availability of students to assist during the marking process. “We do not want a repeat of what happened last year, when the department was involved in a last-minute juggling act because some of those students did not pitch up,” said committee member Nontembeko Boyce.

Committee chairperson Linda Hlongwa told the department that it needed to talk to the security agencies in the country about the issues. She was concerned that the students “are up to something”.

“They may want to do something populist and disrupt the exams,” she said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  matric exams

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