Life has stood still for youngsters implicated in 2014 cheating scandal

2017-12-22 18:45

For the past three years, Mthobisi Ntetha’s life has been put on hold because of the department of basic education has not released his matric certificate.

Ntetha (22) is among 139 pupils implicated in a group cheating scandal at Mashiyamahle Secondary in Ndwedwe, northern Kwazulu-Natal in 2014.

This is the only case that has not been resolved, according to education authorities.

Although, Mthobisi and his schoolmates wrote again during the supplementary exams in 2015, those results have yet to be released by the department.

“My life is at a standstill. This is abuse and injustice. All I hope for is that justice is served and get my matric certificate,” Mthobisi said.

His dream of becoming an electrical engineer hangs in the balance.

He said what hurts him the most is that his name was published in the newspaper that he had passed in 2014. But, when he went to his school to fetch the statement of symbols to hand it over to universities and public colleges, who had showed interest in admitting him to pursue his qualification, he was told that there would be an investigation because allegations have surfaced that they cheated in the exams.

“I was devastated. All those preparations for exams were in vain. I wrote the supplementary with a little hope to get my results, but even that did not produce my results. I’m willing to back to Grade 11 but there is no guarantee that I will get my Grade 12 results even if I do,” Mthobisi said.

He said they were questioned by authorities in 2015.

Instead of getting an outcome of that hearing, they were later told that the inquiry was conducted “illegally”.

Another interrogation was set for 2016, but they rebelled. Mthobisi said they felt it was unnecessary to be dragged into another interrogation again for something they did not do and that there was nothing different they would have said.

The stand-off has left some of his schoolmates broken and have found solace in crime, drugs and alcohol to deal with their stress.

Girls, he told City Press, have opted to be mothers before their time because their dreams have been shattered.

“It’s only God’s way that no-one has taken a rope and hanged himself or herself. Believing in God has kept me going. I don’t know what I would be if I was not going to church,” Mthobisi said.

Out of the 139 implicated pupils, 26 had their results handed over to them last year after the Durban High Court asked the department to release results of those not linked to the alleged group cheating, school principal Mthembeni Ntlazi told City Press.

Ntlazi, said although the results were released for the 26, it remained unclear how the department arrived at that decision as no explanation was given other than they were not “involved”.

He said the saga has psychologically affected those who have yet to receive their results.

Some of them were involved in social ills such as crime and drugs as a result.

“These pupils are mentally affected. This is a third year waiting. They cannot support themselves. Some of them are involved in social ills. They have schooled for 12 years of their lives but they have nothing to show for it,” Ntlazi said.

The morale of other pupils in lower grades was also low because they are not sure if the same thing would happen to them, he said.

Despite the cloud of uncertainty, Ntlazi said parents and pupils remained confident in him.

“They trust me. I also motivated by teachers to keep going.”

As a result, the school obtained a 74% pass rate in 2015. Last year, it obtained 92% pass rate.

Before it was affected by the scandal, the school obtained 98% in 2012 and 99% in 2013.

Ntlazi said the 2014 pass rate was still unresolved.

The school took the department to court last year.

Ntlazi said a hearing would be held next month to decide on the fate of the matriculants.

Living in a household that does not have much, Mthobisi has been forced to job-hunt. But his strides come to a dead-end because potential employers want his matric certificate. The only way he makes a living for now is to wash cars at a car wash in Verulam.

But he is a casual worker there. He get calls when it is busy at the car wash. If he’s lucky and gets a call, he earns R50 a day but has to use R24 for transport. With the remainder he buys his toiletries and other needs.

At home his father, Kwazikwakhe, is the sole provider.

Kwazikwakhe is a security guard and earns an estimated R3000 a month. He has to take care of Mthobisi, the fifth of his children, as well as the other siblings who are also job hunting.

Cebisile, the second of his siblings is trying to make things happen for the family. She’s doing her Adult Basic Education teaching qualification at the University of South Africa, while at the same time doing small jobs. Her mother Bokekile died while Mthobisi was in Grade 8.

Elijah Mhlanga, spokesperson for the department of basic education, said there was a pending court case resulting in pupils unable to get their results.

He said this year’s matric exams happened without any glitches.

This year’s exams commenced on October 16 and ended on November 28.

A total of 802 636 candidates, who consisted of 634 527 fulltime pupils sat for exams. Their scripts would be marked by 44 911 markers in 144 marking centres across the country.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga is set to announce the exams on January 4, while the Independent Examinations Board is scheduled to release the results of pupils in independent schools at midnight on January 2.

Mhlanga said there was no group cheating or leak of exam question papers this year. This was achieved through measures undertaken to improve the management of the exams, he said.

These measures entailed implementing the “just in time” exams meaning that exam papers were printed and delivered closer to the day of writing exams, eliminating long waiting periods, which often allowed for misdeeds.

The department also reduced the number of exam centres making sure that some centres are denied exam centre status.

He said the commitment of officials and pupils alike also assisted a great deal.

Lucky Ditaunyane, spokesperson for Umalusi, a body responsible for quality assurance of matric exams, referred questions regarding to pending results for matriculants to the department.

He said exams went well with minimum disruptions.

The minor disruptions were a result of marches that happened during the exam period, education authorities said.

“There were no reported incidents with regard to the National Senior Certificate matric exams. It is partly due to Umalusi’s insistence on the strengthening of security systems at distribution points,” Ditaunyane said.

However, Ditaunyane said there were reported leaks in the technical vocational education and training sector, in particular, the N3 qualification.

“Umalusi received a report from the Department of Higher Education and Training. It is still investigating and Umalusi will decide on this matter based on the findings and evidence presented to it by the assessment body,” Ditaunyane said.

Msindisi Fengu
City Press
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March 17 2019