The Department of Basic Education has issued an apology after complaints were raised about a term used in the Mathematical Literacy Paper 1, written on November 3.
According to the Palestine Solidarity Alliance, the term "Mandatory Palestine" was used in Question 5.2 of the exam.
“This term was used by Britain as the colonial power in its subjugation of the Palestinian people. A condition that the Palestinian people still suffer today under the settler colonial apartheid State of Israel,“ the alliance said.
The alliance explained that reference to “Mandatory Palestine” infers that Israel is a legitimate democratic state and occupier.
“This, despite the numerous international human rights organisations, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and B'Tselem — the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights, as well as the United Nations — has confirmed that, based on international law, Israel is an apartheid state and is illegally occupying historic Palestine.
“Our own government and many other states and civil society organisations further endorse this globally,” the alliance added.
The PSA called on the Minister of Education, Angie Motshekga, to conduct an investigation into how this biased and insensitive reference was allowed to establish itself in a national examination paper.
“In particular, we want to know who was responsible for setting this paper, who the moderators were, and what will be done to correct this. We further call for a total review of the curriculum in the education system to correct the colonial and apartheid biases that still permeate much of the conduct of those in authority as well as the content of our education,” the Alliance said.
The African National Congress (ANC) in the Western Cape has also raised concerns over the question.
“The Department of Basic Education's choice to use this term to refer to the State of Palestine demonstrates a blatant disregard for the deeply rooted political sensitivities surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict. The inclusion of such terminology within an educational context is highly inappropriate and reflects a lack of consideration for the suffering of the Palestinian people at the hands of the Israeli apartheid state, which has been widely criticised for human rights violations and allegations of genocide,” said MP Khalid Sayed.
According to a statement from the department, there have been numerous complaints about the use of the term in the question paper.
“The Department regards the use of this term in the national examination question paper as highly unfortunate and regrettable.
“The DBE regrets the use of the term mandatory Palestine, which certainly does not take cognisance of the rooted political sensitivities surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the DBE will put mechanisms in place to ensure that this unfortunate incident does not recur,“ the department said.