Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. Picture: Bongani Shilunane/African News Agency (ANA)
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. Picture: Bongani Shilunane/African News Agency (ANA)

Matrics took on the education minister ... and won

By Zelda Venter Time of article published Dec 12, 2020

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Pretoria - Matrics can relax: the Education Department’s plan for them to rewrite a maths and chemistry paper next week has been set aside.

And they have to thank a number of applications to the High Court, but one name will go down in history: that of first applicant Lienke Spies whose name is on the judgment.

Four groups had lodged applications this week - three of which included a number of matrics - and a fourth by the South African Democratic Teachers Union, and argued the case through Thursday.

While some arguments and relief sought differed slightly, all the applications boiled down to the same thing: that the decision announced by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga last week, that two exam papers must be rewritten was irrational.

Judge Norman Davis heard how Umalusi had been behind the decision to rewrite the two papers after exam leaks came to light. He was told that the minister was “bullied” by Umalusi which cited the integrity of the NSC.

The Gauteng High Court Pretoria on Friday ordered that neither paper would be written next week, and the department should continue to mark of the original scripts; around 339 000 in maths paper 2 and 282 000 in physical science paper 2.

Judge Norman Davis noted that the decision had been ill-advised. It was a decision no reasonable person would have taken, considering the facts.

He also criticised the attempt at justification for the rewrites on Tuesday and Thursday, considering the prejudices raised by the applicants and said that complaints of injustice that would arise from subjecting hundreds of thousands of innocent learners to a rewriting process were justified.

The judge pointed out that only about 195 learners who wrote the maths paper may have benefited from the leaked questions, a tiny percentage. An even smaller percentage (60 learners) may have benefited in the physical science paper.

“The conclusion by Umalusi that such a negligible percentage has so irrevocably damaged the integrity of these two papers that it cannot be certified cannot be sustained,” the judge said.

Umalusi, he said, sought to bolster its stance by repeated claims that the extent or actual extent of dissemination of the leaked papers while unknown may have gone "viral”.

This fear was more apparent than real, as in the first week or so after the discovery of the leak, only 195 learners who received the what’ app with the maths questions could be identified.

Even if subsequent events to the decision were taken into account, as the minister argued it should, separate investigations and interviews of learners conducted at a school, revealed a maximum of four learners who may have had access to the papers, he said.

All bar one indicated that they had only received the messages after they had written the exams. “One would have expected, in an instance of this magnitude or extraordinary nature that no stone would have been left unturned to further determine the extent of the leakage.”

The judge said there was a complete absence of proof of the alleged "viral” spread and no rational basis why the proposals by all the stakeholders that a final decision should only be taken once the further investigations have been concluded, should not be the way to go.“

And, even if the extent of the leakage was hundredfold of what had been identified, the question was still whether a 6% compromise would result in a non certification, something Umalusi had not considered.

Even if the decision to rewrite these two papers was rational, there was no justification to do so next week rather than in January.

The judgment cites Spies as first respondent, with Gerhard Burger, Izak Jacobus Arnold and Christiaan Swanepoel as second, third and fourth respondents, with Afriforum the fifth respondent.

In another case Unami Bhembe, Itumeleng Nkambule and Marne van der Merwe are the respondents, while the other has Itha Wessels, Eesa Omar, Pheelo Moeketsi, Alanis Gomes and Nomonde Radebe, all matrics.

Pretoria News

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