DURBAN: SHAMED by the allegations of cheating during the 2014 matric exam, 113 youngsters from Mashiyamahle High School are watching their lives ebb away as the Department of Education has still not released their results.
Initially the school, which is based in Shudu Village in rural Ndwedwe, had the results of all the 139 matric pupils who sat for the exams withheld as part of the group cheating scandal which rocked the province in January 2015. More than a dozen schools were implicated.
The results of 26 former pupils were finally released in March last year and Mashiyamahle principal Zachias Ntanzi said the DOE provided no explanation about why the rest were still being withheld.
“When we found out we had been implicated in the cheating scandal, we were all shocked but agreed to cooperate with the department’s investigation because we knew we had nothing to hide,” said Ntanzi.
Some of the former pupils were also instructed to write the supplementary exams and Ntanzi said he urged them to “comply and complain later” but those results were never released either.
The group was first bused to Stanger High School for a hearing in January 2015 but they were still awaiting the findings of the investigation.
A 22-year old who was part of the group said they were told the results would be released a few weeks after the hearing.
They are still waiting, years later.
“I’m still confused about what happened because my name was among the 59 that were published in the newspaper as having passed, but when we went to school to pick up our statements of results we were told they had been withheld,” she said.
The mother of a one-year-old daughter said her dreams were shattered when they were told about the cheating allegations as she had received a conditional bursary to study for a degree in education at the University of Zululand. She has not held a steady job since 2014 and last year worked as a shelf packer at a supermarket in Verulam on a monthly R2000 salary but had to quit when her daughter was born.
She became emotional when she spoke about her younger sister who completed her matric this year. “I’d hoped to be the one to help pay for her studies but she has applied for financial aid because my mother cannot afford to pay for university,” she said.
Concerned parent Kwazikwakhe Ntetha said their family celebrated when they saw Mthobisi Ntetha’s results in the newspaper.
Mthobisi, 22, had plans to pursue a degree in agriculture and his father said he could see that he was slowly losing hope.
“We even discussed the possibility of him going back to school, starting at grade 10 because this matter is taking to long and he is not getting any younger,” said Nketha.
Ntanzi said while the school had performed well with a 74% pass rate in 2015 and 92% in 2016, the 2014 scandal hung over their heads as there had been no clear resolution. The school achieved 89.6% in the class of 2017 results.
“The former students have now got a lawyer who is helping them fight this and I don’t blame them for taking that route even though it is also taking long,” he said.
Last year the Durban High Court ruled in the favour of the matric pupils and ordered the department to release the results of those not implicated in the cheating then convene hearings for those who were still suspected before December 31, 2016. However, that did not happen.
The group returned to court in September where the first applicant Thabo Mokoena said they were being prejudiced by the department’s failure to abide by the court order since they could neither apply for proper jobs nor enrol for tertiary education without their matric results.
However, in an opposing affidavit filed by the department’s examinations chief director, Rufus Poliah, also in September, he claimed that the group had refused to participate in the hearings, which were part of the department’s investigation.
“Had they not sought to frustrate the convening of hearings their marks would have been released by now,” he said. He alleged that in January last year, Ntanzi refused to assist the department with the hearings as well as the delivery of former pupils’ statements of results.
“I am a school principal, not a messenger. My responsibility is to the pupils who are registered in this school. I politely told the department that since the matter was in court, it would be best to speak to the former pupils directly or their legal representative about how they would be giving them their results or how the hearings would be scheduled,” Ntanzi told the Sunday Tribune.
The pupils’ lawyer Jay Sarju said the department had no evidence to justify withholding the results.
KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education’s Kwazi Mthethwa said they had released all the results of the other schools that were initially implicated in the cheating scandal.