Department of Basic Education says it will defend its matric exam rewrite decision in court

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A legal showdown is expected over the Department of Basic Education’s (DBE) decision to have the leaked Maths and Physical Science Papers rewritten.

The department says it will defend its decision in court following threats of legal action.

On Saturday, student body Cosas and teachers’ union Sadtu revealed that they were preparing to challenge the decision in court.

Basic Education Department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga says the Ministry’s decision was a calculated move.

He says the preliminary investigation into the exam paper leaks was not certain as to how widespread the leaks were, therefore making it difficult not to nationalise the rewriting of both the Maths Paper 2 and Physical Science Paper 2.

“Nobody knows right now how far the paper has gone. As a result of that, you cannot say you will localise the re-writing. You localise it because you do not know. Even the Hawks have said it will take time for a determination to be made as to where it has been and where it has not been, who received it and who did not receive it. Until there we remain in the dark in terms of the extent of the spread of the leaked question papers.”

Earlier on Sunday, another teachers’ union, Naptosa, said the department was overreacting.

“Because of the ambiguity of the finding (of the preliminary report into the matter) – it is merely an assumption at this stage that the leak was widespread. Naptosa believes that the decision to order a national rewrite of the two papers is an overreaction. The term “viral”, used by the investigation Task Team conjures up the belief that the papers were splashed all over social media. But we have not seen evidence that this was in fact the case,” says the organisation’s Executive Director, Basil Manuel.

Manuel says rewrites should instead be ordered in the schools where government’s Task Team found evidence that learners had been in possession of the papers, instead of adding unnecessary pressure to thousands of matriculants who had nothing to do with the leak.

The Mathematics and Physical Science rewrite is scheduled for the 15th and 17th of this month, respectively.

The exam question papers were leaked and an employee of a Johannesburg-base company contracted to the department to print matric exam papers has since been arrested. He is currently out on bail and will return to court on January 27.

It is believed that about 200 learners out of 391 000 could have accessed the leaked exam papers after they were posted on the social media app – WhatsApp.

Minister Angie Motshekga briefs the media on matric examinations:

Minister Angie Motshekga’s statement: