Cape Town – While better results are expected in this year’s matriculation exam, fewer pupils will write the exam compared to 2016 and 2015.
The department of basic education on Tuesday made a presentation to its respective portfolio committee on their state of readiness for the looming exam.
The department’s verdict is that it is ready on an administrative level and that the pupils are prepared.
Priscilla Okubanjo, the department’s director for exams said in total – when fulltime and part-time matrics are combined – 798 289 will write the exam. This translates into 37 838 fewer pupils than that of 2016.
Okubanjo said this cohort was smaller in number in 2006, when this year's matriculants first entered the schooling system in Grade 1.
All the provinces except Mpumalanga and North West showed a decline in learner numbers for the 2017 cohort, with the largest declines in KwaZulu-Natal, with 15 399 fewer learners than in 2016, and Limpopo, with 10 588 less.
The department also related several measures that it has implemented to ensure the security of the exam papers.
Community and staff protests was listed as a moderate risk.
Prior to its matric briefing, the department also briefed the committee on the steps it has taken since the shutdown was implemented by the community in Vuwani due to social strife last Monday.
The department’s director general Hubert Mweli said 26 secondary schools and 52 primary schools accommodating 29 066 learners, of which 1 657 are matrics, are affected.
He said the timetable has been reworked for the matrics writing their preparatory exam.
'Nowhere are you allowed to plan for the unforeseen'
“As soon as the situation is resolved, learners will finish their papers,” Mweli said.
MPs were not impressed with the department’s contingency plan, as the Human Rights Commission’s report on Vuwani required such a plan.
“Learners are deprived of their right to go to school,” said DA MP Nomsa Marchesi. “It is really unfair, really unfair, that we don’t take it seriously.”
Acting committee chairperson Nthibane Mokoto said, “All of us, we are equally concerned about what is going on in Vuwani”.
ANC MP Derick Mnguni said, “Schools are used as pawns to help these communities with their riots”.
Mweli said the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) doesn’t allow for budgeting for contingency plans.
“The honourable members have every right to be angry about what is happening in Vuwani,” he said.
He said the province and district can only plan for what they can carry out.
“Nowhere in our laws are you allowed to plan for the unforeseen,” he said.