Matric exams: Suicide, absenteeism, unpreparedness, cheating, and hospitalisation on day one in Gauteng

Gauteng Education MEC Matome Chiloane. Picture: Timothy Bernard/ Independent Newspapers

Gauteng Education MEC Matome Chiloane. Picture: Timothy Bernard/ Independent Newspapers

Published Oct 31, 2023


Although it showed a thumbs up, the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) has raised unpleasant concerns about the start of the matric exams in the province.

The first day of the 2023 National Senior Certificate (NSC) in Gauteng was marked by suicide, absenteeism, unpreparedness, cheating, and other pupils being hospitalised.

Scores of Grade 12s across the country sat for their National Senior Certificate (NSC) exams on Monday, kicking things off with English Home Language, First Additional Language, or Second Additional Language papers.

The provincial MEC for Education, Matome Chilaone, said he was pleased with the first day of the exams, but stressed that they were devastated by a series of incidents that have been brought to their attention, including the death of a learner.

On Sunday, there was an incident in Ekurhuleni where a Grade 12 learner from Unity Secondary School in Daveyton died by suicide before the start of the exams.

It is alleged that she consumed a substance that is believed to be poison to end her life.

“Despite the first day of exams having gone smoothly in Gauteng, we are devastated by the loss of one candidate who took her own life just before her first exam. We wish to convey our sincerest condolences to her family and the school community at large,” he said.

Chiloane said the majority of their districts had no issues facilitating those writing on Monday.

“Most candidates were present and honoured all rules and regulations as expected. We have noted a few instances of absenteeism among full-time candidates in our districts,” he said.

In a statement, the department reflected on how day one of the exams went across all the districts.

According to it, a majority of full-time matric candidates in Tshwane West were present for their exams; however, about eight candidates approached officials, stating that they were not ready to write.

“Two other candidates did not write due to unknown whereabouts, which is concerning. Three other candidates were also hospitalised due to health issues and were unable to write,” the department said.

In Ekurhuleni South, most full-time candidates also wrote their exams, but one candidate was caught with a cellphone in the exam centre.

The department said they have recorded a concerning rate of absenteeism among part-time candidates from all districts.

“To this end, we wish to re-emphasise the commitments that candidates vowed to fulfil by having signed the NSC pledge. Candidates are discouraged from transgressing their pledge,” it said.

It urged candidates to always adhere to the exam rules and regulations to maintain the integrity of the exam and their future.

“All candidates must honour their exams and regulations as outlined in the pledge. Therefore, unwarranted absenteeism is unacceptable,” it added.

Furthermore, in terms of mental health, the department urged pupils to reach out to the support structures and resources available when facing internal difficulties during these exams.

The structures include Childline, which can be contacted by dialling 116, and the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag), available on all telephonic and online platforms.

Meanwhile, the North West Education MEC, Viola Motsumi, condemned the blockage of roads by community members, which took place at Makgori village near Mafikeng in the morning on Monday.

It is alleged that the community demanded proper toilets, stating that their sanitation system was inadequate due to a lack of toilets. The protest was about service delivery.

The protest affected the distribution of question papers to four secondary schools, namely Ntsidi, Kagiso Barolong, Mothusi Marumula, and Mothibinyana Secondary Schools.

After the police intervened, the question papers were transported to the affected schools, and all learners successfully wrote their exams.

* The SA Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) offers free counselling for learners and parents.

You can call Sadag to talk on behalf of a loved one, colleague, or friend. Trained counsellors are there to help and refer you to local counsellors, facilities, and support groups: 080 021 2223 (8am to 8pm) / 080 012 1314 (8pm to 8am) or SMS 31393.

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