041110 Soshanguve ABET by Project Literacy sponsored by Department of Education.photo SUPPLIED 099

Durban - An adult matric exam cheating scam has been uncovered in KwaZulu-Natal.

A probe by the Basic Education Department into irregularities during the writing of this year’s Senior Certificate (old matric) exam, found that invigilators had helped the candidates answer questions in subjects including physics, accounting, maths, economics and history.

The KZN Education Department now plans to revamp the exam process, which includes taking over invigilator duties and roping in the police.

The Senior Certificate exams are written by those adults who left school without matric. It is based on the old curriculum and was replaced by the National Senior Certificate in 2008.

The old matric exams are not written at schools or managed by principals, and nearly 46 000 candidates were registered to sit for the exams in KZN this year.

In May, when the exams began, officials from the KZN Education Department took over the management of the adult exam centres after getting wind of alleged irregularities.

But last month the national department opted to instigate a full probe when Umalusi, the exam quality watchdog, found that a sample of scripts from KZN contained similar answers.

The national department conducted an audit of the scripts collected from the 95 exam centres deemed suspicious. There are 365 exam centres in KZN in total.

The scripts were analysed for patterns, such as similar spelling errors or containing the same incorrect answers.

The probe found that invigilators at 49 exam centres, spread across nine out of the 12 education districts in KZN, had helped the candidates to correctly answer exam questions. Of the centres probed, 46 were cleared.

Now, Umalusi and the national department have decided to hold back the results of the Senior Certificate for KZN while they look into all 365 exam centres.

On Sunday, Umalusi spokesman Lucky Ditaunyane said that only further investigations, in collaboration with the national education department, would tell how many candidates had been involved.

Umalusi is expected to release a statement on Monday.

National department spokesman Elijah Mhlanga said the old matric exams were a challenge because they were written by adult candidates and managed by adult education centres instead of schools.

“These examinations are administered at state and private centres during May and June each year. However, it would appear that unscrupulous private centre owners and managers have exploited candidates, who are desperate to obtain a matric, for a fee, and offer ‘support’ to these candidates during the writing of the examination. The department will utilise the services of the SAPS and the National Intelligence Agency to get to the root of this practice and all culprits will experience the full might of the law.”

Umalusi has cleared the other eight provinces and their results would be released on Wednesday.

“The early identification of these irregularities and the isolation of these irregularities to one province, confirms that the examination detection and security systems are effective and therefore the examination is not compromised as a whole,” Mhlanga said.

This year, nearly 180 000 adults registered to write the old matric certificate.

The provincial department now plans to deregister all current matric exam centres and draw up a new list overseen by its district officials.

Other tweaks will include replacing invigilators who are not permanent employees of the department with district and school officials.

The Mercury