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Matric exam rewrite: how we moved from investigations to arrests

07 December 2020 - 14:06 By cebelihle bhengu
Matriculants are set to rewrite their maths and science exams after two papers were leaked in November.
Matriculants are set to rewrite their maths and science exams after two papers were leaked in November.
Image: Shelley Christians

The decision by the department of basic education to have matriculants rewrite their maths paper 2 and science paper 2 exams was met with threats of legal action by the SA Democratic Teacher's Union (Sadtu) at the weekend.

The department on Friday said the two papers leaked in November will be rewritten to restore the integrity of the examinations. 

Maths paper 2 was written on November 16 and the science paper on November 23.

Here's a timeline of how we got here:

November 16: Education department hit by first leak 

Three weeks into the matric final examinations, the basic education department confirmed a leak of the maths paper 2. Spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the department had established the paper was leaked two hours before the exam. 

He said initial investigations had revealed the paper had been accessible to pupils in Gauteng and Limpopo. Mhlanga confirmed the department would enlist law enforcement agencies to investigate the origin and extent of the leak.

November 23: Department confirms science paper 2 leak

Just one week after the leak of the maths paper, the department confirmed the leak of science paper 2. Mhlanga said education stakeholders had been locked in meetings to discuss the implications.

He said the investigation into the first leak was at an advanced stage.

A tutor raised the alarm via Twitter, less than an hour before the exam was due to be written. He told TimesLIVE a female pupil had sent him screenshots of the questions that morning.

Education minister Angie Motshekga said the department was concerned about the leaks. She condemned the actions of the perpetrators for compromising the integrity of the examination and causing "untold stress" for pupils. 

November 29: Nationwide rewrite unlikely

A source who spoke to Sunday Times Daily revealed investigations by the Hawks and the department had pinned down 260 pupils who had access to the leaked papers.

The source said a nationwide rewrite of the papers was unlikely because of the small number of pupils found to have had access to the papers.

The source said the investigators had traced between 200 and 220 pupils who had access to maths paper 2 and 39 who had access to physical science paper 2.

December 1: Printing company employee arrested 

The Hawks confirmed Themba Daniel Shikwambana, 31, an employee at a printing company, was arrested in connection with the maths paper 2 leak.

Spokesperson Col Katlego Mogale said Shikwambana works for a company contracted by the department to print the matric exam papers.

Shikwambana has since been released on bail and will appear at the Johannesburg magistrate’s court on January 27 next year. 

December 4: Department says maths and science papers will be rewritten

Motshekga announced on Friday that the leaked papers will be rewritten on December 15 and 17 to preserve the integrity of the examinations.

Explaining the decision for a first ever national rewrite, the minister said the department was left with no choice after Umalusi said it will not recognise the results.

Motshekga said the leak of the papers through social media made it impossible to accurately establish the extent of the leak.

December 6: Sadtu threatens legal action

The union said it would take the department and Umalusi to court over the decision to rewrite the exams. It said during a meeting with both parties, unions made it clear they did not support the rewrite. It said the decision was taken because Umalusi said it would not recognise the results if the exams are not rewritten.

The union said the department and Umalusi should consider the mental health of pupils who struggled to prepare for the exams during a global pandemic.

“Sadtu believes the decision to have all pupils doing mathematics and physical science rewrites is unfair and premature because the investigation [into the leaks] has not been concluded.

“Based on the initial investigation which has shown the number of pupils who may have seen the paper are less than 200 out of the 390,000 who wrote the paper, there is no basis for a national rewrite," said Sadtu. 

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