Zero tolerance for cheats: matric exam rules bring out the big stick

Parents, pupils will be required to sign an agreement that aims to make sure there isn’t a repeat of last year’s debacle

19 October 2021 - 17:14
Schools will be required to record details of pupils’ cellphones in an electronic devices register.
STRINGENT Schools will be required to record details of pupils’ cellphones in an electronic devices register.
Image: SAMORN TARAPAN/123rf.com

Grade 12 pupils who fail to report “direct or indirect access” to a leaked paper they received through WhatsApp and the source of the message will be guilty of committing an irregularity.

This is one of the new clauses contained in a commitment agreement document for the 2021 National Senior Certificate exams that parents and pupils will have to sign before matriculants start writing next Wednesday.

The move is an attempt to prevent a repeat of last year’s leaks through WhatsApp groups of the maths paper 2 and physical science paper 2 before they were written.

The document drawn up by the department of basic education provides a detailed list of rules and regulations as well as irregularities that may occur during the exams, which end on December 7.

A total of 735,677 fulltime and 162,109 part-time candidates have registered for the exams.

Schools will be required to record details of pupils’ cellphones in an electronic devices register.

The document states that “if the cellphone or any other device is changed during the examination period, this must be brought to the attention of the school principal”.

“A candidate who is alleged to have had access to the question paper or parts of the question paper, prior to the examination, will be required to submit his/her cellphone or any other electronic device to the department for further investigation.”

A candidate who is alleged to have had access to the question paper or parts of the question paper, prior to the examination, will be required to submit his or her cellphone or any other electronic device to the department for further investigation.
New rule

It stated that “the candidate hereby provides in terms of the Protection of Personal Information Act, his or her consent that the information on the cellphone may be utilised for the purpose of the investigation”.

Another addition to the agreement is that the candidate and the parent/guardian must be aware that “should the candidate agree to any assistance, irrespective of who provided the assistance, they shall be considered to have colluded with the person who provided the assistance, and therefore the appropriate sanction will be imposed”.

The document further advises parents that if it is discovered that a question paper had leaked before the exams, the department’s director-general, in conjunction with exams quality assurer Umalusi, will make a decision on whether the question paper needs to be rewritten.

“Disciplinary action will also be taken against officials who are involved in irregularities at their examination centres.”

Dawie Kriel, principal of Hoërskool Noordheuwel in Krugersdorp, Gauteng, said he welcomed the additions to the commitment agreement.

“If, by any chance, it prevents children from leaking the paper, I will be happy because last year we nearly had to write two papers again because of leaks. If you can find the culprits and let them write again, that would be fine, but to get innocent children to postpone their holidays to write is unfair.”

During a media briefing on October 8, basic education minister Angie Motshekga appealed to communities, parents and pupils “to enable us to run a credible exam”.

“It’s in the interests of the country and interests of everybody so we don’t go back to the very embarrassing situation we found ourselves in 2020 where there was scribbling and all sorts of things and discrediting an exam which is written by hundreds of thousands.”

Umalusi CEO Mafu Rakometsi told a media briefing last Friday that they were still awaiting a report by the national investigation task team into the probe of last year’s exam leaks.

He said they did not give the department of basic education a deadline to submit the task team report “because investigations can take any amount of time depending on the complications and ramifications of whatever leads they are getting”.

“The matter where candidates’ results have been withheld remains unresolved. They remain in that status and we cannot release the results until the students, who have been implicated, have been cleared.”

The matter where candidates’ results have been withheld remains unresolved.
Mafu Rakometsi, Umalusi CEO 

Rakometsi said that once the department had completed its investigations, it would submit a report to Umalusi.

“Based on whatever findings they have, we will be able to make a pronouncement and map the way forward.”

Meanwhile, matrics across the country will participate in a pledge-signing ceremony on Friday at school undertaking to comply with the examination code of conduct.

While the pledge signing is voluntary, candidates will be asked to read out aloud the pledge and then sign it.

Among other things, pupils will pledge that should they receive any information on a question paper that is still to be written, they will immediately inform their subject teacher and the principal.

Motshekga will be attending the pledge-signing ceremony in Free State while her deputy, Reginah Mhaule, will observe proceedings in Northern Cape. 

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