Matric exam markers fear contracting Covid-19 at marking centres
As the marking of matric exam papers starts in earnest this week, some markers have expressed fears of contracting Covid-19 at marking centres.
Markers in the Northern Cape started work yesterday, in the Western Cape they start today, and in the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga marking begins tomorrow. Gauteng and Limpopo will start marking on Tuesday and the Free State, North West and KwaZulu-Natal on Wednesday.
Because of the large number of candidates and the shortage of markers in some subjects in some provinces, some limited marking has already been done in Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga. All marking has to be completed by January 22.
A teacher who has been appointed as a senior marker said she had heard of many teachers who were refusing to take part out of fear of contracting the virus. “They are not willing to risk their lives.”
She said one of the biggest fears discussed on WhatsApp chat groups was contracting the virus through the handling of answer scripts.
“The script goes from the marker to the senior marker and then to the deputy chief marker and to the chief marker. There is the risk of picking up the virus from the paper.”
Another concern was that in some centres there would be about 500 markers at the venue.
“Some are saying that if there is going to be so many markers at one venue, it can be labelled as a ‘superspreader’ event.”
Another seasoned marker said there was a risk of contracting the virus during the queuing that took place during registration and meal times.
“Ventilation has always been a very serious problem at marking centres because most marking is done in classrooms.”
He said markers would also be socialising and interacting with family members after they leave the marking centre. “The marker may not be positive today but may come back infected the next day.”
Basil Manuel, executive director of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA, said marking centres have never been very pleasant environments.
“People who have marked will tell you that marking centres are very densely populated areas.
“There will be those with comorbidities who are now making life decisions [whether to mark or not]. There will also be teachers who are just fearful of going to mark.”
Basic education department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga told the Sunday Times no teacher had turned down marking work because of fears of contracting the virus.
He said it would be safer for markers to stay in guesthouses “as opposed to going home to mingle with family members who might have gone out to be exposed in places such as malls”.
He tweeted that markers will be screened for symptoms when they arrive, as well as three times during the day.
Basic education minister Angie Motshekga is expected to announce the matric results on February 22.
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