Matric exams: Ghost writers, protests, crib notes - just some of the dept's headaches

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  • 83 of 216 NSC question papers have been written so far.
  • The DBE will release the final exam results on 22 February, after schools have reopened.
  • The department says exams are running smoothly, but a few human elements can't be controlled and regulated.  

Attempted ghost writers, crib notes, candidates not submitting their answer sheets and incorrect registrations - these are some of the challenges the final National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations have faced since the start on 5 November.

This was announced by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) at a media briefing in Pretoria on Wednesday.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga briefed the media, alongside director-general Mathanzima Mweli and chief director for National Assessment and Public Examination, Rufus Poliah, following a meeting with the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) in the morning. 

The CEM had given her an update on the progress of the examinations, also reporting on the unfortunate leaking of the Mathematics Paper 2 question paper.

Motshekga said 83 of the 216 papers had been written as of Wednesday.

She said everything had been running smoothly, except for disturbances caused by protests and unpleasant weather conditions in parts of KwaZulu-Natal.

READ | Covid-19-positive matrics in Gauteng to write exams under quarantine at Nasrec

The department said some schools experienced power outages and technical issues during the Computer Applications Technology and Information Technology exam. Candidates were, however, either moved to alternative venues or compensated for the lost time. 

Protest action in the Western Cape was also reported, but schools continued with the assessments.

The department said it was in the process of establishing whether all candidates, who were affected by the protests, wrote. 

Affected candidates, who were late for exams, were allowed to write. 

The department said eight candidates at one of the centres wrote English Home Language, instead of First Additional Language, while at another centre, a candidate walked out of the exam room without returning their answer sheet. 

A wrong question paper was also opened at another centre, but it was immediately detected and corrected. 

The assessments are taking place in 8 200 centres in all provinces, with 80 000 invigilators.

Two cases of attempted ghost writers were reported. 

Poliah said:

A phenomenon that we had previously, which seems to be resurfacing again, is what we refer to as imposters (ghost candidates). Technically, what happens in this situation, is when one other individual decides to write on behalf of the registered candidate. But, in both cases, they were identified immediately on entry into the examination room because they have to produce their ID. In fact, one of them was apprehended and arrested by the police and the other one managed to disappear.

Some candidates were also reported to have entered the exam room with cellphones and crib notes.

The department noted that there was, however, a reduction in candidates arriving at centres with crib notes. 

It added that, in Gauteng, the provincial department had put measures in places amid a taxi strike.

Candidates who arrived late were allowed entry into the exam centre and a provision was also made for others to write at schools close to their homes. 

Bus operators were also informed to transport candidates in uniform at no cost. 

The department said it continued to maintain its Covid-19 protocol to ensure the spread of the virus was minimised in centres, adding that candidates who test positive were being monitored daily. 

Candidates with Covid-19

On 12 November, 93 candidates were reported to have tested positive: 53 in Eastern Cape, 23 in Free State, 10 in Western Cape and seven in Gauteng. 

This was the highest number reported, Poliah said, adding that, on other days, in most sessions, two to five candidates were testing positive. 

Candidates who presented with Covid-19 related symptoms wrote in isolation, while those who tested positive also wrote separately. Some wrote at quarantine sites and others at suitable venues. 

"We have a very rigorous monitoring system, with over a million learners (candidates) writing, and over 8 000 centres. We ensured, as a minimum threshold, 70% of our centres are monitored.

"In fact, some of our provinces have gone beyond the 70% to monitor almost 100% of the centres on a daily basis," said Poliah. 

Mweli said the 93 candidates who tested positive could be seen within the context of multiple variables, one being that community spread was increasing in areas where they lived. 

"It is within the context of the increasing infections in communities because these learners (candidates) come from communities where infections are happening.

"And when we spoke to health experts, they were not surprised. They said 'these are the hotspots in the country because that's where these learners are coming from'.

Marking of the NSC examinations will start on 4 January 2021 and results will be released on 22 February. 

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