By CAYLA MANDEAN
The 2020 matric class that started exams on 5 November is the largest ever.
In a statement this week, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) urged South Africans to rally behind all 1 058 699 candidates.
Despite the extraordinary circumstances, the DBE said the Class of 2020 would be examined at the same high standards as in previous years. The exam papers were set by the Department in 2019, and have not been adjusted in any way.
The last exam is scheduled for 15 December.
The DBE said the education sector had employed resourceful measures, to ensure the Class of 2020 is fully prepared, despite the disruptions to the academic year.
These included the provision of supplementary material, vacation classes, after-school programmes, teacher content training, placement of volunteer teachers, as well as alternate ways of grouping and teaching learners.
Warren Schmidt, principal of Victoria Girls High School (VGHS), said a combination of face-to-face and online teaching had served to prepare the Grade 12s as best as they could.
He said the school had placed a strong emphasis on areas of psychosocial support for learners and teachers.
A VGHS learner specially mentioned Sibusiso Mkhize, a teacher in charge of the matriculants, who had established comprehensive tutoring programmes in the build-up to the exams.
Grade 10 learners had worked hand-in-hand with each other and received extra help and support from the school, she said.
Another learner said the preliminary examinations in September 2020 had been a useful means to assess what areas she needed to focus on.
Information and Communications Technology (ICT) support provided by the Department of Education for learners in 2020, was not only targeted at Grade 12s, but also Grade 10s and 11s. Support included the distribution of digital content to provinces, digital state-owned textbooks, Mindset broadcasting solutions, virtual classrooms, content distribution through websites, TV broadcasting support and educational websites, which were zero-rated for access.
New exam-writing centres were identified to accommodate the increased number of candidates for the combined examinations in some Provincial Education Departments. The designated centres will be mainly used for the Senior Certificate and Part-time candidates, while National Senior Certificate full-time candidates will write at their schools.
Both public and independent centres had been inspected to determine the risk profile of the centre and compliance to Covid-19 protocol, the Department said. The required one-metre social distance had been set, and the monitoring of centres would be based on the established risk profile.
For markers, both virtual and face-to-face meetings had been held with Umalusi, South Africa’s Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training, to establish marking guidelines that complied with the standard of each question paper.
Training had been completed by invigilators, with strict adherence to Covid-19 protocols. Provincial Education Departments had additionally appointed private monitors to manage and monitor the administration of the exams.
Daily reports will be submitted to the Department of Education during the writing period, and online monitoring of examinations will be utilised. Provinces have submitted plans for the finalisation of the majority of the irregularities prior to the release of results, and for the management of irregularities at the marking centre.
Both parents and learners have taken part in pledge-signing ceremonies, committing to a reliable and impartial examination process, as well as being made aware of the consequences of irregularities.
After seeking expert advice from the Health Department, learners that present with temperatures about 38˚c may write the examination in isolation. However, these learners are expected to refrain from socialising with other learners and will be referred for medical attention. The condition of these learners will be closely monitored in subsequent exams.
While significant efforts have been made to recover the academic year, many students feel anxious and apprehensive with final exams quickly approaching. Attributing nerves to the fact that “the year disappeared so quickly” many wish there was more time.
In spite of concerns, the Department commended all learners, teachers and school management teams for their resilience.