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Students in limbo after massive exam leaks at technical colleges

03 December 2017 - 00:00 By PREGA GOVENDER

While matric exams ended on a smooth note this week, thousands of students at South Africa's 50 public technical and vocational education and training colleges face an uncertain future after it was discovered that question papers and answers in five subjects were leaked and distributed to students on mobile platforms.
A senior examiner said the leaks were just the "tip of the iceberg" as suspicion was rife among college staff that question papers in dozens of subjects had been compromised.
Among exams affected was the English first additional language paper 1 for Level 2 students - the equivalent of Grade 10.
While the leak was discovered early enough to reschedule the exam and set a new paper, other students were not as fortunate. It was only discovered after the exams that the maths N2 and N3 papers, the industrial electronics N2 exam and the engineering science N3 exam had been leaked via WhatsApp and SHAREit.The exams went ahead, but if an investigation by quality assurance body Umalusi shows that any students fared much better than expected, their marks will be blocked. If there are widespread discrepancies, the class will have to rewrite new papers.
Students studying these subjects at TVET colleges qualify as artisans, technicians and government-certified engineers after completing their N6.
The latest scandal comes after eight exams due to be written in August at TVET colleges had to be rescheduled after evidence of leaks.
The senior examiner, who did not want to be identified for fear of victimisation, said the chief markers' comments when they were told of leaks of some papers in the year-end exams was: "Tell us what didn't leak."
He said students writing industrial electronics N6 this week finished the three-hour paper in 90 minutes. "There's no way they could finish it in an hour and a half. That already tells me it leaked."
He said a lecturer at Tshwane South College's Pretoria West campus had taken photos on his cellphone of a question paper as well as answers that he had been given by a student, and sent it to officials in the Department of Higher Education.
"The student came to write the exam but he didn't qualify to write because his term mark was too low. When he was told he can't write the exam, he said: 'By the way, here's the paper.' He gave the paper and marking memorandum to the lecturer.
"The papers Umalusi mentioned that leaked are the tip of the iceberg. As far as I am concerned, all papers leaked."
An electrical engineering student at Ekurhuleni East College in Gauteng said she had been angry when students were told their maths N5 exam, scheduled for July 27, had been moved to August 2 after leaks.
She believes the leaks happened during the printing of the papers.
Umalusi spokesman Lucky Ditaunyane confirmed that the Department of Higher Education had reported the five latest leaks. He said papers for the four subjects "will not necessarily be rewritten" and that it would depend on the outcome of the investigation.
"Extra care will be taken during the marking process to determine whether there was any suspicious performance or other indications of the leakage of papers. The results of such candidates will be blocked for further investigation. If there is any evidence of widespread leakages, the papers might be rewritten."
He said Umalusi had the authority to withhold results or declare exams void. He confirmed that the results of those implicated in the leak of the exams written in August had been blocked for further investigation.
Higher education spokesman Madikwe Mabotha confirmed that an exam centre had told the department that a satchel containing the English first additional language paper 1 had been opened and copies were missing. "The paper was replaced and candidates wrote a new paper."
He said the department received information of alleged leaks of the maths N2, maths N3, industrial electronics N2 and engineering science N3 papers after they were written. "Examination centres where invigilators found evidence to suggest possible leakages alerted the department."
The department was engaging forensic investigators to investigate the leaks, he said...

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