Ghostwriters helped exam cheats

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Copy of nm abet SUPPLIED File photo: An adult matric cheating scam in KwaZulu-Natal has forced exam quality watchdog Umalusi to declare invalid the results of 153 centres where answer scripts were written and collected.

Durban - New details have emerged of how exam invigilators helped adult matric candidates in KwaZulu-Natal cheat during this year’s Senior Certificate exams.

The probe by the Basic Education Department has revealed instances of candidates getting someone else to write their exams.

The Senior Certificate exams are written by those adults who left school by 2007 without a matric. They are based on the old school curriculum and were replaced by the National Senior Certificate exams in 2008. They are referred to as the old matric exams.

The Senior Certificate exams were written in May by nearly 46 000 KZN adults at public and private adult education facilities.

Last month, the national department launched a probe when irregularities detected by the KZN Education Department were confirmed by Umalusi, the exam quality watchdog.

The investigative team conducted an audit of the answer scripts from 95 of the 365 exam centres where candidates wrote. They found:

* Different candidates had identical answer scripts.

* Crib notes.

* The answer scripts of a single candidate displaying different handwriting in different subjects.

* Two answer scripts with different handwriting bearing a single exam number, in the same subject.

Basic Education spokesman Elijah Mhlanga explained that where one candidate had two scripts with the same exam number but different handwriting, it was ghostwriting. The registered candidate wrote the exam in the exam room, but, at the same time, a second individual whom the registered candidate had hired also completed the paper.

At the end of the exam, the answer script of the hired writer replaced the script of the registered candidate. However, the invigilator - who was complicit - mistakenly submitted both scripts for marking.

Umalusi has confirmed that this widespread cheating, in at least nine districts, was isolated to KZN.

Umalusi council chairman Professor John Volmink said that as a result, there was no alternative but to withhold the release of the KZN exam results until the ongoing investigation was complete.

From its monitoring and moderation processes, Umalusi was satisfied that, in the remaining provinces, there were no serious irregularities that could undermine the credibility of the exams, the council said.

The KZN Education Department is set to revamp the management of the old matric exams. Its district officials will oversee the writing process at a new list of exam centres to be drawn up. The police will also be roped in to beef up security and surveillance.

The Mercury

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