The Department of Education sent a circular on the eve of the 2020 matric exams saying Covid infected matrics could write their exams and they sent another five days later with some general protocols – but, no explicit indication of where they should write or who should invigilate. However, the Education Department maintains there should be no confusion and that the protocols required for schools to open earlier this year served adequately to guide how and where matrics with Covid-19 should write their exams.
This week, Makhanda schools were still in the dark.
“We have no indication yet about where those learners should write, said one school head yesterday. “It’s one full week after the start of the exams and if we do get cases, we still don’t know what to do.”
Principals and invigilators received training two weeks ago on how to handle the matric exams in the context of Covid-19.
“It was clear,” said a member of the senior management team (SMT) at another school. “Then suddenly they turned things around.”
A circular from the DoE indicates it was only on Wednesday 4 November, the eve of the matric exams, that the decision was made to allow Covid infected learners to write their exams. However, it was only on Sunday night – three days after the start of exams – that school management teams received written confirmation of the general principles for managing Covid-positive matrics.
“The Department threw this at us, but there are a lot of grey areas,” the SMT member said.
“Now the policy is that the learner must be allowed to write, and it’s the school’s responsibility to find an isolation venue and an invigilator who is prepared to risk that prolonged contact.
“Our teachers are asking, ‘Which of us is going to invigilate those learners?’,” the SMT member said. “Not because they don’t care for the learners, but because it puts them at risk. It’s quite scary.”
Spokesperson for the Eastern Cape Department of Education Mali Mtima said, however, there should be no confusion.
“The Department sent out a circular in June as part of the preparation for schools to be reopened,” Mtima told Grocott’s Mail. “In that circular, it was specified that one room must be set aside as an isolation area for learners who present with symptoms.
“We only allowed schools to open that confirmed they had this in place.
“This [Matric Covid protocol] is not new: schools must continue to deal with Covid protocols as before,” Mtima said. “Each school will only use that isolation room that they have already set aside if they have Matric writers with Covid.”
However, Mtima said (and schools in Makhanda confirmed) that this is not a challenge any local school has yet had to deal with.
“According to the Education] District Manager, there are no matric writers in Makhanda with Covid,” Mtima said. “Nothing.”