Come hell or high water, matrics will write exams

2012-10-21 10:00
Charl du Plessis
National defence force is on stand-by to deliver papers to pupils if required.

The defence force has been placed on alert as thousands of matrics prepare to tackle their year-end exams in the face of severe weather conditions.

Hope Mokgatlhe, spokesperson for Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, said: “Nothing is going to stop the exams from going ahead.”

Mokgatlhe said the department had “engaged the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) to make sure that exam papers reach their destinations”.

“The SANDF has got vehicles that can deal with these kinds of conditions ... to make sure we don’t get stuck in the mud,” said Mokgatlhe.

More than 430 000 full-time matrics are registered to write the English Home Language and First Additional Language papers tomorrow.

But while the department of basic education has this week officially declared its readiness, the weather is not playing ball.

On Friday, the SA Weather Service issued warnings of heavy rain for the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape throughout the weekend.

Severe thunderstorms for Gauteng and Mpumalanga were also forecast.

Mokgatlhe said plans were in place and the department would call on the defence force to assist, if necessary.

She said the army was already standing by in Mpumalanga, where the rainy season has in the past caused difficulties with the writing of matric
exams.

In 2007, heavy flooding forced the Western Cape education department to set up alternative exam venues.

One student had to be airlifted by helicopter to write an exam.

Mokgatlhe said the department had identified alternate exam centres and these would be used as needed.

On Thursday, Motshekga announced that the department was fully prepared for the National Senior Certificate (NSC) exams.

She said that the exam “system has stabilised in many respects”.

“For example, over the past two years we have not experienced any question paper leaks, nor any serious incidents that could compromise the credibility of the NSC examinations.”

The department has also beefed up security, with Motshekga announcing improved security systems, including closed-circuit surveillance cameras, and access control for schools and exam halls.

Mpumalanga has a particularly bad reputation when it comes to matric exams.

In 2009 two maths papers, two science papers and an accounting paper had to be reset because of leaks experienced there.

Motshekga, however, said the beleaguered Limpopo education department was ready for the exams.

She said that textbook delivery problems had not affected this year’s matrics.

She also expressed concern over South Africa’s low registration rates in terms of mathematics.

The registration figure for maths has dropped from 317 270 matrics in 2008 to 230 194 this year.

More than 527 000 full-time students and 120 352 part-time candidates are enrolled to write the 264 question papers on offer this year.

Other subjects that will be written this week include accounting and the physical sciences papers.