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'We've had a lot of interventions': Cautious optimism on matric exams

26 October 2021 - 10:31
Matric pupils begin writing their final exams on Wednesday. File photo.
Matric pupils begin writing their final exams on Wednesday. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images/Die Burger/Jaco Marais

There is cautious optimism that this year's matric exams, which begin on Wednesday, will not be as affected by Covid-19 challenges as last year.

A total of 897,786 candidates registered to write the department’s exams, including 735,786 full-time and 162,109 part-time candidates. 

Matakanye Matakanya, general secretary for the National Association of SchooI Governing Bodies, said pupils are as ready as possible and everything is on track despite fears of fresh Covid-19 waves.

“The systems are on course, our children are ready. They have the support of school governing bodies as well as the department of basic education at all levels — I believe of the society as well because we really came out very strong (using different platforms) to call upon the society and community to support these children,” he said.

Matakanya said though there haven’t been any serious problems, the only challenge at schools has been normality.

“The challenge is the normality as you know it that a child has to learn from Monday to Friday every day. But in this case, some grades have been alternating for all these two years ... But it has not been the case with grade 12s. They have space to write at the [exam centres], so there is really no challenge when it comes to infrastructure,” he said.

When asked if there are any concerns of a possible Covid-19 resurgence, he said: “We have been worried all this time about this pandemic — every time they said the third wave, the second wave.

“We are worried about it and we also call upon the health department to call upon the department of basic education to say how best do we insulate our children against these things because we can’t stop going to school. Once we stop going to school, we don’t know what our future becomes.”

Matakanya said the association is doing its best to ensure that pupils complete their exams safely, adding they had supported the rollout of vaccinations for teachers and the recent rollout for children.

“We are doing our best to ensure that our children are insulated against this but at the same time, the non-pharmaceutical measures are still in place in schools.”

The organisation endorses heightened awareness of the need to observe these protocols “so that our children are able to write in a healthy situation until they complete with their exams”.

A matric pupil from a school in Atteridgeville, Pretoria, Peter Bokay, said he had no fears about the exams.

“I don’t fear anything, I think I am totally ready for it.

“Looking at the teaching plan, I think we are done with all the syllabus, there is nothing that was left behind. With us this year we didn’t experience Covid-19 like the people from last year, so we are on a good side,” he said.

The 21-year-old said he was hoping that his hard work will pay off.

“We had a lot of interventions, we had secondary school improvement programme (SSIP) classes on Saturdays and schools were adding two more hours' extra time in the afternoon and one hour in the morning and some learners went to the camp to reinforce. So for me, I don’t think there is an excuse,” he said.

“All I am hoping is that all the efforts that our teachers put in and the efforts that we put in pay off. I think it will definitely pay off.”