The Pretoria High Court is expected to deliver judgment in the case between the National Department of Education and the SA Democratic Teachers Unions (Sadtu) and AfriForum on Friday.
Sadtu and AfriForum filed court papers to interdict Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and Umalusi, the quality assurance body, from going ahead with the national rewrite of the physical science paper 2 and maths paper 2 scheduled for next Tuesday and Friday.
The two exam papers were leaked before the pupils sat for the exams.
During court proceedings on Thursday, AfriForum argued that Motshekga had not consulted the director-general of her department and other education bodies before ordering a national rewrite of the two leaked exam papers.
“There is no indication in all of these papers that the director-general even considered, let alone consulted, and made a decision. The minister made the decision. It must be reviewed and set aside,” said AfriForum’s attorney Quintus Pelser.
Sadtu said the decision to rewrite the exams was not properly explained by Motshekga and she had failed to provide the reasons for her decision.
“The fundamental difficulty facing the first respondent [the minister] is that it has neither explained what considerations it considered nor provided any motivation for its decision.
In these circumstances, accepting that there was no information before the first respondent or factual foundation that demonstrated the need to rewrite. The decision was arbitrary and irrational in the sense that it lacked any logical justification,” Sadtu argued.
Elijah Mhlanga, the department’s spokesperson, said should the court set aside the rewriting of the two papers, this would have “far-reaching consequences for the pupils who might have to forfeit the academic year”.
“Should the decision to rewrite the two papers be set aside [by the court], it will mean that the ongoing investigations will be completed months from now. Pending the finalisation of the investigations, the certification of these two subjects will remain in abeyance,” Mhlanga said.
“That will mean that thousands of pupils, some of whom may wish to enroll at higher education institutions, or utilise the results of these subjects for whatever purpose, will not be able to do so.”
He said if that happened, the pupils would lose a whole academic year if the court rules that the two papers should not be rewritten.
“That must be weighed up against the inconvenience and disruption of having to rewrite the two subjects. It is obvious that the rewriting pales into insignificance against the loss of a whole academic year,” Mhlanga said.
According to Equal Education’s Leanne Jansen-Thomas, the decision taken by the department, which was influenced by Umalusi, was not justified and it has created a terrible situation for pupils and teachers.
Jansen-Thomas said that the full extent of the leaks was not certain at this stage because investigations had not been concluded. According to the preliminary report, less than 300 matric pupils were directly affected by both leaks, she said.
“We understand however, the wide reach of digital platforms such as WhatsApp. It has also been communicated that one of the papers was leaked a few hours before the actual exam. Furthermore, the alternatives to rewriting have not been adequately explained by minister Motshekga or Umalusi.
“We are concerned that the decision to hold these two exams again, will have a negative impact on the mental and emotional well-being of the pupils,” said Jansen-Thomas.
She said that some pupils had indicated that they had returned or given away their textbooks, while others have gotten rid of their study notes.
“Again, this has been a difficult year and to propose a rewrite is deeply unfair,” she said.