All systems go for matric exams

Over 717 377 matriculants are expected to sit for their final examinations across 6 898 centres on Monday, as the 2023 National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations get underway.

Briefing the media on the state of readiness for the exams on Sunday, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said the figures are not mere statistics but embody the aspirations, dreams, and relentless efforts of all Grade 12 learners.

She said there has been a gradual decrease in the number of candidates, 34 626 candidates, when comparing this year’s figures to 2022 and this could be attributed to the fact that more candidates completed their qualifications on time.

“There has been an increase in the number of part-time learners from 168 631 in 2022 to 181 143 in 2023 (an increase of 12 512). A total of 207 question papers, 72 500 invigilators and 52 500 markers will drive the examinations process.

“Furthermore, our roster boasts 72 500 invigilators [who are] ready to ensure the smooth conduct of the examinations, compared to 72 000 last year,” Motshekga said.

Umalusi has approved all the question papers to be administered in the October/November 2023 examinations and given the nod to the exams.

The Minister assured that security measures have been enhanced to prevent paper leaks in all nine provinces, with the State Security Agency having audited the processes.

“Provincial Education Departments (PEDs) must follow standard operating procedures training storage point managers in security protocols. Moreover, specific collection times for question papers by chief invigilators have been established to deter early access. Each PED has its own irregularity committee to anticipate and mitigate crises,” Motshekga said.

To mitigate the challenge of load shedding, Motshekga said, all PEDs and schools have devised contingency plans, including backup generators.

The Computer Applications Technology (CAT) and Information Technology (IT) Paper 1 examinations were generally conducted this week without power issues, with isolated incidents and affected candidates isolated and managed.

“We will offer a backup paper if needed due to power interruptions. In South African Sign Language Home Language (SASL HL), candidates’ laptops will be fully charged before each examination commences, and backup power supply measures have been put in place,” Motshekga said.

Meanwhile, the National Assembly has passed the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill, which the Minister said “will address some of the key challenges that have hindered the progress of the education ecosystem”.

The Bill, which was passed on Thursday, responds to the current needs in terms of the changing demographics of communities, findings by the courts, and the department’s own observations as it monitors schools.

“The Bill has 56 clauses ranging from the introduction of Grade R to learner attendance, Code of Conduct for learners, home schooling, rationalisation of schools, abolishment of corporal punishment and initiations, language policy, admission policy and criminalisation of disruptions of school,” Motshekga said.

She said the clauses in the Bill are about “providing access to education and providing a child-friendly environment as per the dictates of international treaties”.

“The country cannot fold its arms and watch parents using children at traffic light as beggars instead of sending them to school. The country cannot afford to have children working on farms or roaming the streets nor allow adults to use children as pawns for their service delivery protests at the expense of the children’s education,” she said.

She reiterated that there was no taking away the powers of the School Governing Bodies (SGBs).

“The fact that language and admission policies were solely determined and adjudicated by SGBs with veto powers without checks and balances led to the abuse of such powers when some schools excluded learners in those schools using discriminatory practices such admitting learners according to race, ability of parents to pay school fees, academic performance and sporting abilities.

“In reality, the BELA Bill aspires to harmonise the powers of the SGB with the directives of the relevant provincial Head of Department (HOD).

“While the SGB is initially tasked with setting a school’s language policy, the Bill emphasises that this authority is not unequivocal. It ascertains that such policies are adaptable, inclusive and congruent with the constitutional right to basic education,” Motshekga said.

Meanwhile, the department is working with Provincial Education Departments to intensify the delivery of school infrastructure.


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