'We are being collectively punished': matric pupils go to court over rewrites

08 December 2020 - 15:20
By ernest mabuza AND Ernest Mabuza
Four matric candidates have challenged basic education minister Angie Motshekga's decision that two matric papers should be rewritten following leaks.
Image: Cebisile Mbonani Four matric candidates have challenged basic education minister Angie Motshekga's decision that two matric papers should be rewritten following leaks.

Close to 400,000 matric pupils are being collectively punished by having to rewrite two leaked examination papers while only 195 pupils had access to one of the leaked papers.

Pupils were being collectively treated as culprits to cover the tracks of a leak aimed to benefit a chosen few.

These allegations were contained in an application filed at the high court in Pretoria on Monday by four matric candidates and lobby group AfriForum.

They are seeking an urgent court order setting aside basic education minister Angie Motshekga's announcement last week that the two leaked papers must be rewritten.

The court is also being asked to force the basic education department and quality assurance body Umalusi to mark the answer scripts of the four matric pupils and those who were not involved in the alleged irregularity regarding the leaked maths paper 2 and physical science paper 2.

They also asked that the department be interdicted from destroying any of the answer scripts for the two exams, pending the outcome of any review proceedings that may be instituted against Motshekga's decision about a rewrite.

Matric pupil Lienke Spies said in an affidavit that a preliminary report presented to the national examination irregularities committee and seen by the Sunday Times indicated some of the country's top matric candidates had been drawn into the leaks scandal.

The Sunday Times revealed that most of the 195 pupils who had access to the mathematics paper were top maths pupils from across SA who had been tutored by Stellenbosch University.

Spies said 391,000 candidates wrote the maths paper 2 and 282,000 sat for the physical science paper 2.

"Despite the fact that this interim report contains very specific numbers of the very specific learners who allegedly had sight of the leaked papers and/or parts thereof, the [minister and national examination irregularities committee] opted to rather take the drastic step of inflicting collective punishment to 400,000 learners who did not form part of any elite groups or special treatment initiatives which originates from the department itself," said Spies.

Spies said though the Sunday Times report was hearsay, she was challenging the minister to disclose the contents of the preliminary report to court. This would assist the court to determine if Motshekga and the relevant decision-making bodies acted rationally, reasonably and lawfully.

"I submit they did not, and in the process inflicted irreparable harm on the vast majority of 400,000 learners who sat for either the maths or physical science papers," Spies said.

Spies said Motshekga had stated she consulted key stakeholders from school governing body associations, teacher unions and Umalusi and there was agreement on the need to protect the integrity of the examination.

"Notably, the minister failed to consult any institution representing learners, such as learner representative bodies, youth organisations or youth structures," she said.

Spies said after writing exams they had handed back their textbooks for all completed subjects, according to the standing regulations of their schools.

She was aware of many of pupils who maintained the practice of destroying their study notes immediately after completing an exam paper.

The department of basic education, Umalusi and the committee are expected to respond to the application on Tuesday afternoon.

The four candidates have set the matter down for hearing on Wednesday. 


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