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Panic, outrage as Unisa examinations compromised again

2019-11-17 18:00

“Oh no, not again!”

This was the reaction of University of SA (Unisa) students on social media after the university sent out an email on Friday afternoon to students announcing that exam question papers for the second semester – October and November – had been leaked.

The outrage was swift on social media after the university sent the email to its 400 000 students about the compromised exams.

Unisa also informed the students that an investigation was underway to establish what had happened.

Some students panicked online, speculating which modules were affected.

Others speculated that it could have been the Taxation and Business Activities and Economics papers and the Foundations in English Literacy Studies exam.

One jokingly asked: “Can Financial Accounting Principles, Concepts and Procedures be part of those leaked exam papers?”

Another student wrote: “I wish [the] Economics [paper] was on the list so that I can rewrite.”

But for second-year law student Xoliswa Thuzo* this was not a laughing matter.

Thuzo told City Press that she had sacrificed her savings to pursue her dream of becoming a lawyer.

She chose to enrol at Unisa because of its long-distance learning programme which suited her as she worked full time.

“I’m disappointed because one always has the potential to be embroiled in scams that one was never party to,” Thuzo said.

“Again, this phenomenon of exam leaks casts aspersions on the quality of graduates of a particular university. Of course, there’s always the risk of rewriting the same paper if culprits are not found and that’s emotionally stressful. It’s a reputational damage to the university and I don’t know how they are failing to clamp down on this,” she said.

Thuzo said there was a concern among students over how tutors used students’ contact details.

Some tutors, she said, invite students to tutorials to get “exam scope” for various modules.

She said it was common knowledge among students that tutors would always send the text “come and get the EXACT scope” during exam time.

“I accept that an A-tutor can make his students pass with flying colours. Revision is part of studying and preparing for any exam. The minute a tutor says ‘scope’ it means he or she had access to the question paper.

“How can they be so brazen without being caught by the police or crime intelligence or Unisa?” Thuzo said.

She said she had deleted an SMS she received from a tutor.

“Almost on a daily basis students doing a particular module are invited to enrol for revision tutorials. For me that’s fine. But specifically stating that the ‘exact scope’ will be given should raise eyebrows,” she said.

Questions were emailed to Martin Ramotshela, the university spokesperson, and to Professor Mandla Makhanya, Unisa’s principal and vice-chancellor, on Friday afternoon.

Ramotshela said yesterday he would only be able to respond tomorrow when he had seen a file relating to the leaks investigation.

According to Unisa’s email sent to students on Friday, which City Press has seen, the university said the matter was being investigated and the probe was at an advanced stage.

However, it would not say which modules were affected, how many staff members and students had been identified in the scam and what action would be taken against them.

The university would also not say what processes had been put in place to deal with similar incidents in future.

The email only said Unisa had identified individuals who had compromised the integrity of exams and the necessary measures to address the situation would be implemented soon.

“It is important to note that the university has also identified several students who have been communicating on WhatsApp/telegram groups regarding the availability and purchasing of examination question papers. These cases are being followed up by police,” read the email.

Students were warned that anyone participating in such online groups, or involved in any other actions which may compromise the integrity of the examination process, would be disciplined and may also be criminally charged.

“In addition, students found to have participated in compromising the integrity of the exams or any of the university’s assessment processes, will be sanctioned. Such sanctions may include permanent expulsion from Unisa and from all other South African universities,” the email said.

Unisa appealed to anyone with knowledge of individuals involved to report this by using whistle-blowing contact details 0860 00 5050 or to email the information to information@whistle-blowing.co.za

This is not the first time Unisa was hit by a leak this year.

In May, the university released a similar statement announcing that a leak had occurred during first semester exams.

A student asked on social media: “Are these people investigated? What are the consequences? Why do they always do the same thing?”

Added another student: “How can papers be leaked every semester unless they [university] are also at fault? Unisa is starting to annoy us now.”

*Not her real name



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December 8 2019