South Africa

FINALS FINAGLING

No need for alarm after matric exam paper leaks, says education department

The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation and the South African Police Services were called in to investigate the origin of the latest matric exam paper leak. (Photo: Gallo Images / Jaco Marais)

Two national senior certificate examination papers have been leaked since the examinations started.

The Mathematics Paper 2 and Physical Science Paper 2 are both alleged to have been leaked via WhatsApp since the final national senior certificate (NSC) exams, also called matric exams, began on 5 November.

While investigations are still underway to trace the source of the leaks and examine their extent, the initial leak of the maths paper on 16 November was traced only to Limpopo and Gauteng, but it later emerged that all provinces except Free State were affected.

“Leaks can happen anywhere. It’s not provinces, but people in the provinces. It’s a sick mind that makes a person do this. They can be anywhere in the country,” said Elijah Mhlanga, the department’s head of communication.

Learners found to have been in possession of the paper before the official exam face a maximum three-year ban from writing their exams, Mhlanga added.

The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) and the South African Police Services (SAPS) were called in to investigate the origin of the leak. Officials found to have been involved face suspension and possibly criminal sanctions.

The leaks will also be investigated by Umalusi, the South African Qualifications Authority, Universities South Africa and the basic education department.

Mhlanga said their investigations had traced the source of the leak.

The department is yet to determine who will rewrite the exam papers – candidates who are directly affected by the leak or every learner who wrote the examination regardless of their involvement.

In the past, only learners involved and affected by the leaks had to rewrite the exam.

In 2016, Limpopo was the source of a Maths Paper 2 exam leak. Mhlanga said the leak originated from an independent school and was confined to 100 learners in 10 schools in the province. As a result, a system-wide rewrite was not necessary.

To deal with the 2020 leaks, the department said in a statement dated 23 November that the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) was considering various security measures, but did not share details of the measures for “security reasons”.

During the week of the initial leak, the department promised to:

  • Increase security in all areas where live question papers are handled;
  • Reinforce the need for CCTV footage to be safeguarded/preserved;
  • Manage and closely supervise contract workers;
  • Implement a double locking system so that it is impossible for any official to access the strongroom or any storage alone; and
  • Increase the monitoring of the storage, distribution and writing of the examination.

Despite the leaks, the department is positive that this will not jeopardise the quality of this year’s matric exams.

“There are 216 question papers for the whole exam. The standard and quality are determined by a whole set of factors. So let’s not create alarm where it is not necessary,” Mhlanga said.

This year’s NSC exam is the biggest (in terms of the number of candidates) in the history of the education system.

Due to Covid-19, more than a million candidates are participating in the NSC exam process. The national lockdown delayed the 2019 matric rewrite process that usually takes place in June. DM

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