Right to education violated as matric pupil denied access to exam, Constitutional Court finds

Ernest Mabuza Journalist
The Constitutional Court declared the conduct of an acting principal of a school in Limpopo, which resulted in Johannes Moko's inability to sit for an exam, was a violation of the pupil's right to education.
The Constitutional Court declared the conduct of an acting principal of a school in Limpopo, which resulted in Johannes Moko's inability to sit for an exam, was a violation of the pupil's right to education.
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The Constitutional Court on Monday said conduct which saw a matric candidate denied access to an examination room because of failure to attend extra lessons was unacceptable.

The court declared the conduct of the acting principal of a school in Limpopo, which resulted in the matric candidate's inability to sit for the business studies paper 2 examination on November 25, was a violation of the pupil's right to education.

The court passed judgment on an application by Johannes Moko, 23, a pupil at Malusi Secondary School in Marobjane village.

Moko was supposed to write the business studies paper 2 exam on that day, but acting school principal Tlou Mokgonyana sent him home to fetch his parents or guardian because he had missed extra lessons.

Moko went home but could not find his guardian and returned to school when the examination was already in progress.

The acting principal still refused to allow Moko to enter the examination room, and Moko subsequently missed the exam.

Moko was told he will be able to write a supplementary exam in May 2021.

Aggrieved by this decision because he wished to pursue tertiary education at the start of 2021, Moko brought an urgent application to the high court in Limpopo for an order that he be given an opportunity to write the missed examination soon.

“The high court, for reasons which cannot be fathomed, struck the matter off the roll for lack of urgency,” justice Sisi Khampepe said on Monday as she read the summary of the unanimous judgment she wrote.

Moko then applied for leave to approach the ConCourt on an urgent basis for an order that the conduct of the acting principal was inconsistent with the right to basic and further education entrenched in the constitution.

Moko requested that he be afforded the opportunity to write the exam before the marking of other matric scripts and the release of other matric results.

The department of basic education, Umalusi and the acting school principal did not oppose his application. The department offered Moko an opportunity to write the missed exam in January 2021.

The court determined the application from papers without oral submissions.

In its judgment, the court held that matric exams fell within the meaning of basic education protected by the constitution.

“As a result, the court holds the acting principal had a positive obligation to give effect to the right and a negative obligation to not interfere with the right to basic education.”

The court concluded that the acting principal's conduct that resulted in Moko missing the exam clearly amounted to a violation of the right to basic education.

The court ordered the department to grant Moko an opportunity to write the missed examination before January 15. It said his results must be released with other 2020 National Senior Certificate examination results.

Khampepe said Pakistan activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai once said: “When someone takes away your pens, you realise quite how important education is.”

Khampepe said she hoped no other pens were taken away from pupils.

“Conduct by educators like that seen in this case is completely unacceptable. I hope occurrences like these are rare and that most, if not all, our matric pupils, felt supported by their school principal and teachers during the examination period,” Khampepe said.

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