Load shedding could adversely affect computer-related matric exams, say authorities
Load shedding and possible taxi strikes are among the concerns raised by authorities in the Western Cape and Free State ahead of the matric exams. However, they say there are contingency plans in place.
Authorities have expressed concerns that load shedding could disrupt computer-related exams as well as candidates’ studies at night for this year’s matric exams.
The matric class of 2023 is set to commence exams on 30 October with the writing of English First Additional Language Paper One (P1) and Paper Two (P2) and other optional languages.
Computer-related subjects that could be affected by load shedding are Computer Applications Technology (CAT) and Information Technology (IT).
Authorities in the Western Cape, Gauteng and Free State said candidates could rewrite these subjects if they were disrupted by load shedding and that some schools had backup generators.
Western Cape Education MEC David Maynier said the department was also concerned about learners’ ability to study in the evenings during load shedding and was aware that there may be challenges caused by the taxi strike in August, which left learners unable to go to schools.
According to a Department of Basic Education (DBE) report tabled at the parliamentary portfolio committee on basic education on 19 September, 64,165 Grade 12s will sit for exams in the Western Cape.
They will be among 723,971 full-time and 129,064 part-time candidates nationally who will be writing at 6,800 exam centres.
This year’s registered candidates, the DBE report showed, had decreased from the 753,964 who sat for exams in 2022.
While load shedding will not prevent learners from completing their written exams, as all exam venues must have sufficient natural light, Maynier said there was a concern that it could affect practical computer exams.
There were clear protocols in place for when load shedding occurred on the day of the exam, and if needed, learners would get a second opportunity to complete the exam.
“The biggest impact is on our learners’ ability to study in the evenings,” Maynier said.
The department was also alert to the possibility of another taxi strike or similar community disruptions — there was a one-day taxi strike in the province during last year’s matric exams.
Read in Daily Maverick: Cape Town taxi strike – Looted malls and stores count the costs
But, Maynier said, not a single candidate missed an exam thanks to quick action that allowed learners to write at the school closest to them.
“We appeal to everyone in the province to treat our matrics as VIPs for the exam period, because they have enough stress on their plate without having to fear violence and transport disruptions,” he said.
He said they would like the province’s pass rate to improve.
But, he said they were conscious that the learning losses caused by the Covid-19 lockdowns were now being felt by the matric class, who had moved up through the grades.
“This is why we have dedicated so many extra Saturday and holiday #BackOnTrack classes to matrics, who are at present attending spring school. So we are cautiously optimistic about the results,” he said.
As part of #BackOnTrack, nearly 18,000 matriculants attended Winter School classes during the June/July holidays and Spring Schools this week.
‘We’re targeting 90%’
Free State education spokesperson Howard Ndaba said their target was a 90% pass percentage and 40% bachelor passes.
Ndaba said the class of 2023 had been provided with ongoing support from the department’s Curriculum Directorate in collaboration with other relevant stakeholders to perform well in the upcoming exams.
“Schools have been running extra classes and communities have supported these initiatives,” Ndaba said.
Measures had been put in place to minimise possible load shedding interruptions during the CAT and IT exams and schools offering these subjects have backup generators.
“The province is expecting that the class of 2023 will make us proud in the final exams,” he said.
KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC Mbali Frazer said at a media briefing on 26 October that they planned to obtain a 100% pass rate, but if this did not occur, the province should get no less than 85%.
Mpumalanga Education MEC Bonakele Majuba said they intended to ensure that all their 68,681 candidates passed.
“In the event that for some reason that does not happen, the department will be satisfied to register an 83% pass rate as this will be in line with the target set in the National Development Plan,” Majuba said.
Eastern Cape MEC Fundile Gade said at a media briefing on 20 October that support would be provided for 19,281 learners who are at risk of failing, until the last day of exams.
Tutors drawn from the best teachers in the province, he said, would support these learners in several subjects including Maths, English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa.
Northern Cape education spokesperson Geoffrey van der Merwe said the matrics of 2023 “were in Grade 9 when the pandemic first hit and were also the last group of learners to return to school when schooling normalised”.
He said Saturday classes and holiday school camps were held to support the learners.
Limpopo education MEC Mavhungu Lerule-Ramakhanya said the community should ensure that loud music, festivals and social gatherings were suppressed for the duration of the exams to give candidates ample time to study and focus.
According to the Department of Basic Education:
- The Eastern Cape has 101,293 full-time matric candidates and 14,414 part-time candidates;
- The Free State has 35,642 full-time candidates and 7,594 part-time candidates;
- Gauteng has 133,390 full-time candidates and 54,840 part-time candidates;
- KwaZulu-Natal has 170,637 full-time and 23,338 part-time candidates;
- Limpopo has 94,441 full-time and 8,981 part-time candidates;
- Mpumalanga has 68,848 full-time and 4,832 part-time candidates;
- North West has 42,258 full-time and 3,188 part-time candidates;
- Northern Cape has 13,297 full-time and 1,689 part-time candidates; and
- Western Cape has 64,165 full-time and 10,188 part-time candidates. DM