DURBAN - THE country’s media industry has slammed the ban on publishing matric results in newspapers and described the government’s decision as “ridiculous”.
This comes after Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga’s announcement that matric results will no longer be published in the newspapers or other public platforms. She was speaking at a media briefing on the readiness of the start of the academic calendar on Tuesday.
The decision not to publish pupils' results in newspapers and other media platforms was taken after parents’ pleas, who cited psychological reasons, the minister said.
Various media houses contacted by the Daily News, expressed shock at the decision and described it as ridiculous.
The Citizen, owned by Caxton, slammed the decision. Digital editor Earl Coetzee said he did not understand how banning results in newspapers would stop pupils from committing suicide, if they fail to accept the negative results.
“We are still trying to figure out what will happen and would be in a better position in a few days’ time to say how this would affect us. But for now the reason given that pupils would commit suicide sounds ridiculous, because it is not clear how the decision would stop pupils from killing themselves,” Coetzee said.
Coetzee added that for years newspapers had published examination numbers, not the full names of pupils, and no one except the pupil in question would know the examination number.
Ilanga newspaper, which has also been publishing results for years, also expressed shock.
The paper’s company manager, Vishal Nunkumar, said the decision would have a negative impact on advertising revenue because some companies were taking advantage of the increased demand for the papers during this period, and placing adverts. One of the editors lashed out at the government, saying he believed there was another reason the government had relied on, not the one it was telling the public. During this time most pupils were not at their homes, but out of their provinces visiting families and relatives, so they could get their results easily without travelling back home, the editor said.
“It’s a shocking decision. There were newspapers that decided to stop publishing the results after the Education Department banned publishing the names of pupils, because to them it did not make sense and it took away the excitement of families and relatives celebrating the achievement of the pupils,” he said.
He added that even parents would not know their children’s examination number unless these were shown to them, and wondered how another person would know that a particular pupil had failed but their name was not in the paper.
Graeme Wild, South African Pulp and Paper Industries Limited (Sappi) vice-president of sales and marketing, said newspaper readership is declining around the world, with consumers turning to online news sources. Wild said the newspaper industry was further affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, with an estimated drop in demand of about 20% in 2020. Wild said that Sappi is currently the only remaining local producer of newsprint in South Africa.
“In 2020 due to the declining demand trend, we started switching production on the newsprint machine at our Ngodwana Mill in Mpumalanga toward kraft bag and testliner, taking advantage of the desire of retailers and consumers to reduce their use of plastic bags and meeting the need for increased packing material required for online shopping.”
Department of Basic Education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga told the Daily News that the department has always insisted that the results be collected from schools or writing centres.
“The Popia is a piece of legislation which came into effect recently. The law deals broadly with the protection of personal information, not just the national senior certificate results. The department has an obligation regarding the release of the results only to the candidates. The decision does not impact negatively nor jeopardise the candidates’ results,” Mhlanga said.
Meanwhile, teachers’ unions welcomed the decision.
Public Servants Association provincial manager Mlungisi Ndlovu said: “This is a victory for both learners and educators who have been put under pressure, due to the publication of matric results. The department should also make an agreement with the pupils with poor results to repeat Grade 12, because universities reject them,” Ndlovu said.
KwaZulu-Natal National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA chief executive, Thirona Moodley, said the department had no choice but to work with the law.
“Besides that, I think that the publishing of the matric results has caused major humiliation for previous matriculants. This is private and should be kept at that,” said Moodley.
The SA Democratic Teachers Union KZN secretary Nomarashiya Caluza said: “There are schools for pupils to collect their results and statements. There have been many incidents of suicides as a result of the pupils being informed through the papers.”
National Teachers' Union general secretary Cynthia Barnes said the decision was going to affect all pupils both negatively and positively.
“We believe this will affect all pupils the same way. This means, those in other provinces or outside the country would have to travel back just to collect their results.
“Those who have failed will be exposed and isolated, while some discuss their university enrolment. Also, not publishing would be a disappointment to those who were encouraged by that to work hard,” said Barnes.