The Department of Basic Education (DBE) has said it will be challenging the latest court ruling, which set aside its decision to have two leaked matric exams re-written. According to the department spokesperson, Elijah Mhlanga, the move has plunged the department into “unimagined chaos”.
It comes as Sadtu, Afriforum and student representatives had taken the department to court after it set dates for a re-write of the Mathematics and Physical Science Paper Two’s. DBE acted on advice from Quality Assurer Umalusi, who said because the papers were leaked via social media, the extent to which it spread is unknown and the paper was “irrevocably compromised”. The department subsequently earmarked the 15th and 17th respectively, for a national re-write.
The High court in Pretoria’s on Friday ruled that the move was unlawful and irregular. DBE spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga explained that their main concern is the credibility of the exam and how this will affect students’ applications for undergraduate studies. Mhlanga said it appeared the judge did not read the regulations.
“The judge did not read the regulations which say that Umalusi, as well as the DG of the department, have the responsibility to decide what happens when a matter like this has arisen.”
“The second thing is that the judge says the Center for Evaluation management (CEM) is not a formal body. We cannot leave that unchallenged because we know that CEM was established in terms of Section 9 of the National Education Policy Act. If you agree and it remains like that in the judgement, it means that all the decisions it has taken and will take, will be irregular and unlawful. That we cannot allow because it is legal and established in terms of a parliamentary act.
“The judge did not say what needs to be done to restore credibility, integrity and fairness to the examination. that, for us, is a problem because the cloud that has been there when the leaks took place, remains in place. The judgement did not help us to remove the uncertainties around the credibility of the exams for the class of 2020,” he continued.
This will bring doubts, Mhlanga said, to whether students got their certificates legally and “whether the results reflected is a true picture of what (they) obtained.” He said while the re-write will no longer take place, the department will mark and submit an irregularities report to Umalusi.
“What we will say in that report is that we don’t know the true extent of the leak and we can’t really tell how far it has gone. That’s why we thought the best thing to do was re-write but now that it (won’t) happen, we really can’t say who benefitted and who didn’t.”
“We don’t believe that Umalusi will make the same statement they made this year (when they said) we are happy, please proceed with the printing.”
Mhlanga noted that the legal team is working on the court papers, which could take from a few days up to a few weeks.
“By the time of results are released, we will not be done. Which means some people are not going to get their results pending the outcome of the investigation,” he explained.
SADTU has meanwhile welcomed the court’s ruling, with Jonathan Rustin having said they are “very happy that there will be no re-write now.” He shared the sentiment of many who were opposed to the re-write, that 399 000 students would’ve been disadvantaged based on the actions of a few.
Manuel said they considered the rules in the General Education Act stipulate which stipulate a re-write becomes necessary when an exam paper leak influenced 6% of candidates, whereas inconclusive data reflects only 0.6%.
“The investigation is not done, 0.6% were showed to have the paper- which is far from the 6%. There are other options, such as localised re-writes. When the marking process is done and the analysis is done, one can identify where there’s a need for a local re-write.”
“You can’t disadvantage the entire country because of a small leak and put all the learners in the country through trauma.”
Afriforum has meanwhile called on the Hawks to secure arrests in relation to the leaks.