Durban -

More than 130 disgruntled pupils from a high school near Verulam – who claim their matric results are being illegally withheld – have begun legal proceedings against national and provincial education authorities.

An application was brought in the Durban High Court on Thursday by the pupils who wrote their 2014 matric examinations at Mashiyamahle High School.

The pupils have taken Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, Education MEC, Peggy Nkonyeni, the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education and the exams’ quality control body, Umalusi, to court.

They are asking for their results to be released after claims they cheated in their final examinations.

Umalusi in January said the matric results of 39 KZN schools had been red-flagged for copying.

This included Mashiyamahle High School.

The pupils, represented by attorney Jayendra Surju, claimed in court papers that on January 6, the press published the names of 59 pupils from their school who passed.

However, when they went to collect their statements of results from the school principal, they were informed that the results of all the full-time and part-time candidates were blocked and withheld because of allegations of irregularities.

The pupils were left shocked and traumatised, the court documents say. Their parents met the school governing body, which held meetings with various authorities.

The KZN Education Department informed the principal there were irregularities in the maths, English, life sciences and physical science papers.

They were also told that eight invigilators would be investigated.

According to the court documents, on January 12, the principal and invigilators underwent a written investigation.

Then, on January 21, all 139 candidates had to undergo an interview and investigation at Stanger High School.

The pupils described the interviewers’ tactics as “third degree” and that they had been subjected to screaming and threatened with harsh penalties.

They claim the investigators wanted the pupils to implicate the invigilators.

The investigating team, comprising officials from Umalusi and the national Department of Basic Education, showed the school principal three maths scripts with only one small part of the answers that were allegedly similar.

The principal argued that the similarity in answers did not mean that the pupils copied, and cited rote learning.

An investigator had claimed that the pupils could not prove to them how they arrived at the same answers.

The pupils claimed that they were not called to answer any part of the question paper.

According to the department, the outcome of the investigation was supposed to be released to the candidates on January 28 so that they could have sufficient time to enrol at tertiary institutions.

On February 11, the principal received a document stating that the pupils were required to rewrite the papers in question at a school more than 30km away.

They were given one week’s notice.

When they questioned the decision, the principal told them: “Comply now and complain later.”

The pupils claimed their rights were being infringed. They are asking for the respondents to also bear the costs of the application as they are uncertified matriculants with no jobs who are from extremely poor households.

The acting chief director of communications at the Department of Basic Education, Elijah Mhlanga, said in an e-mail response, that the department was studying the documents and it intended to oppose the matter.

On Thursday, Judge Vusi Nkosi granted a consent order for the respondents to submit their opposing papers by March 30.