It’s the largest public exam ever administered in South Africa. In three days’ time the matric class of 2020 will sit for the national senior certificate examinations – the June senior certificate exams were postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic disruption and will now be written together with the national senior certificate.
More than a million candidates will sit for the examinations starting on Thursday.
In his newsletter to the nation on Monday morning, President Cyril Ramaphosa noted that this year’s exam will be written under unprecedented conditions.
“We are in the midst of a global pandemic. The nationwide lockdown we had to impose in March to contain the spread of the coronavirus caused immense disruption to everyday life and cost valuable hours of learning and study,” said Ramaphosa.
“It is the culmination of 12 years of schooling and a gruelling final year of preparation. For many this is an exciting moment, but one that is also fraught with anxiety.”
Ramaphosa congratulated the provincial and national departments of basic education “for their sterling preparation to ensure things proceed smoothly”.
These include the independent and public auditing of examination centres, finding extra venues to accommodate the large number of candidates, and the development of protocols to ensure compliance by candidates and officials with Covid-19 regulations.
“The Class of 2020 has had to endure conditions their predecessors never had to confront. They had to adapt in real time not just to finish the curriculum but to catch up with the learning hours lost. Though some had access to online learning platforms and other resources, many had to struggle with access to learning material and teaching,” Ramaphosa said.
Added to this, the matrics had to endure the mental strain of social isolation, and for many months were cut off from friends and their teachers, Ramaphosa noted. This included not being able to participate in sporting, recreational and leisure activities “that are so essential to a well-rounded life and that relieve the stresses of prolonged study”.
“Yet, despite having the odds stacked against them, our learners are determined to be present for this exam that is the pinnacle of their schooling,” he said.
Ramaphosa acknowledged the teachers whom, despite the risk posed by the virus and resource challenges inside our schools, heeded the call to return to school to salvage what was left of the academic year.
“They presented for work every day to support our matriculants,” he said. “They put in the extra hours to get our learners over the finish line, making the most of the resources they had to ensure learning continued.
He saluted the teachers, who have been there for their students when they were needed most.
“They have given so much, personally and professionally. They put our learners first and in doing so affirmed once more that our teachers are among our finest public servants,”he sad.
Ramaphosa said the pandemic had brought the nation together in ways not experienced before, and this was demonstrated in the matriculation examination preparations
• Many businesses played a supportive role, assisting with the provision of technology like tablets to schools and assisting to resource school multimedia centres. Mobile network operators established e-school platforms during the lockdown carrying free learning content, including subject content for matriculants;
• University graduates set up tutoring platforms online, making much needed supplementary learning support available for free; and
• The SABC and other TV providers have carried catch-up lessons for matric learners through the department of basic education’s Woza Matrics Programme, enabling pupils to prepare for the examinations.
Ramaphosa mentioned Dendron Secondary School in Limpopo, where a group of dedicated teachers opened their own homes to their students. During the early days of the lockdown, they provided food and accommodation to small groups of matriculants, and supervised their studies.
“There is no doubt many such stories in other parts of our country; of educators convening home-study groups with their students and of parents providing food, learning space and other resources to their children’s friends,” Ramaphosa said.
“Despite all the challenges this year has brought, I call on the Class of 2020 to summon their great reserves of courage and strength in this, the final push ... You have overcome difficulties that would test the resolve of even the most experienced and hardened adults. We are immensely proud of you and wish you the very best of luck,” said Ramaphosa.