Durban - The matric class of 2014 of an Ndwedwe high school – accused of cheating in their exams – have gone to court in an attempt to force the Education Department to release their results so they can “get on with their lives”.
The 139 pupils from Mashiyamahle High School say they have done nothing wrong, there is no evidence against them and the department is “flouting the rules”.
“This is causing a serious impediment to us undertaking the next chapter of our lives… any further delay will be totally calamitous for us,” they said in an urgent affidavit before Durban High Court Acting Judge Vusi Nkosi on Thursday.
They were seeking an order directing the national and provincial education ministries and education control body Umalusi to release their results within a week.
Being “poor students”, they wanted the minister and MEC to pay costs, on a punitive scale, of the court action.
However the minister, MEC and Umalusi sent lawyers to court to oppose the application and it was adjourned by consent for them to file papers.
Basic Education Ministry spokesman Elijah Mhlanga said: “We are studying their court papers and working on our responses.”
In his affidavit before the court, pupil Thabo Mokoena, said all the exams were conducted under strict supervision of a full-time monitor sent by the Education Department and a chief invigilator, assisted by eight others.
There was one invigilator for every 30 pupils and occasionally the chief invigilator would visit the examination rooms.
He said when the matric results were released on January 6 this year, the names of 59 candidates from the school, including himself, were listed in the newspaper as having passed.
But when he went to school to get his result, the principal told everyone their results had been “blocked” because of irregularities.
“We were shocked and traumatised. He could not explain why it was in the print media that some of us had passed, yet there was just a telephone statement by the authorities to the principal that our results were blocked.”
Mokoena said the invigilators were subjected to a grilling in early January – some individually and some in groups – but they were never shown the suspect exam scripts.
He said hearings for candidates accused of “copying” were set down for January 20 and 22.
They were told the subjects involved were maths, English, life science and physical science.
The candidates were “interrogated”.
“The distinct impression was that the interviewers wanted us to implicate the invigilators and their tactics were almost third-degree in nature with them screaming and threatening us with harsh penalties. Some were harsh and others were soft, promising that nothing would happen to us.
“I later learnt we were entitled to have legal representation.
“We were not shown our examination papers, nor was anything specifically contained in them raised,” he said.
During the hearings, their principal was shown three maths scripts “with only one small part of the answers which they claimed to be similar”.
“The principal argued that this did not mean the candidates copied… for example, it could be that the candidates wrote what was learnt by rote.
“One of the investigators told the principal that the candidates could not prove how they arrived at the answer… how could they expect the candidates to remember something they wrote 11 weeks prior?”
Mokoena said the outcome of the investigation was supposed to be released at the end of January in time for enrolment for higher education. But it had still not been released.
Instead, they were told that those alleged to have cheated must rewrite the exams, starting two days later, which was “patently unfair”.
“We were told our results were withheld because of reports by whistle-blowers. Who are they? When did they blow their whistles?”
It appeared the authorities were on a fishing expedition for information against the invigilator.
The case was adjourned to March 30.