Picture Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA)
Picture Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA)

Education authorities eye legal challenge to aspects of ruling on matric exam rewrite

By Sihle Mlambo Time of article published Dec 12, 2020

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Johannesburg - The Department of Basic Education says it will approach the courts to overturn certain aspects of Friday’s court ruling, but confirmed that no matric pupils will be expected to rewrite the leaked maths and physical science papers.

On Friday, the North Gauteng High Court reviewed and set aside the departments decision for all matric pupils who sat for the leaked maths and physical science exams to rewrite them next week.

The court also awarded costs to four pupils, teacher union Sadtu and Afriforum, who brought the matter to court on an urgent application.

On Saturday, the Council of Education Ministers, which comprises Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, the director-general, the nine provincial MECs and their heads of department, met to discuss Friday's court ruling.

Elijah Mhlanga, the spokesperson for the Department of Basic Education, said the CEM noted the court ruling and “agreed that there will be no rewrite of the Mathematics Paper 2 and Physical Science Paper 2”.

The exams were scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday respectively.

“CEM agreed that the Class of 2020 has been confronted by many challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic and it would therefore be unfair to further subject the Class of 2020, their teachers and parents to further uncertainties and exacerbate the anxieties they currently face.

“CEM has noted a number of aspects in the judgment that cannot be left unchallenged,” he said.

Mhlanga said the department was concerned that the court did not address their concerns around the credibility, integrity and fairness of the exam.

“Some of the findings of the court, are discordant with applicable basic education legislative provisions; and some findings were made against the Department on issues that were not even raised in the court papers.

“CEM was particularly concerned about the tone and language used by the Honourable Judge,” said Mhlanga.

Meanwhile, although one person has been arrested and released on bail in relation with the exam leak, the CEM has called on the department and the Hawks to intensify the investigation into the leaked exam papers.

Motshekga said parents and pupils should take comfort and enjoy their festive season.

“The Class of 2020, their teachers and their parents should take solace in CEM’s decision that the Mathematics Paper 2 and Physical Science Paper 2 will not be rewritten on 15 and 17 December 2020. Enjoy your Christmas and New Year’s break; rest and recharge for 2021; but you must observe all COVID-19 health, safety and social distancing protocols at all times”, said Motshekga.

Meanwhile, Afriforum and Sadtu had earlier commented that they were pleased with the court ruling.

Afriforum's advisor on education rights, Natasha Venter said they were pleased that the exams would be marked and the marks would be made available.

“AfriForum welcomes the court finding and considers it not only as a victory for the almost 400 000 matriculants who would have been disadvantaged by Minister Motshega’s decision, but also as a victory against the Department’s unfair, arbitrary and one-sided decision in this regard.

"We urge the department to now focus on arresting the guilty parties to ensure that the integrity of the exams is beyond reproach,”

Sadtu said it was vindicated by the court’s decision and the judgment has saved thousands of pupils from a grave injustice that would live with them for the rest of their lives,” she said.

Sadtu’s general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said they could not divorce the union from the plight of pupils and teachers.

He said the decision to have all rewrite was unfair and premature because the investigation had not been concluded.

"Based on the initial investigation which showed that the number of learners who may have seen the paper are less than 195 out of the 339 000 who wrote the maths paper which translate to less than 0, 06% and an even lower percentage in respect of the physical science paper, there was no basis for a national rewrite," Maluleke said.

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