Provincial education departments are scrambling to find replacements for hundreds of matric exam markers who have pulled out at the last minute. The second wave of the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in markers withdrawing because they are either ill, have been exposed to a positive person, or have cited fear of exposure.

In Gauteng alone, close to 900 markers did not show up and it is estimated that the figure for the Eastern Cape is around 265.

More than a thousand teachers in the country have pulled out of marking matric exam papers, with Gauteng accounting for the bulk at 880.

Gauteng Education spokesperson, Steve Mabona, says the markers have given various reasons including being exposed to the coronavirus, fear of contracting the virus, and family bereavements. He says they have, however, been able to find replacements.

“Some could not come because they have positive cases or there were contacts with positive people so that’s what we have. We were happy that we had started and we have now replaced those who did not come yesterday, so we don’t see any challenge when it comes to the marking of the scripts.”

Situation in the Eastern Cape 

In the Eastern Cape, Education MEC Fundile Gade says 5%of the teachers did not show up for various reasons and 73 had to stay away because they have tested positive for the coronavirus. The MEC has been visiting marking centres.

“Our centres are complying, we have been reported at 95 % in terms of the presentation of those markers that have been requested to come. We have got 5300 markers that have to be taken into centre in the province and unfortunately, 70 of them were found to be positive which is a small number compared to the resurgence that we have in the province because I was a bit worried looking to two-thirds of the province.”

Strict COVID-19 protocols, including testing for all markers, have been put in place at the 24 marking centres across the Eastern Cape:

The North West appears to have a clean bill of health as all its markers have reported for duty.

Other provinces are still collating their numbers. It had been expected that KwaZulu-Natal would be one of the hardest hit, given reports of teacher deaths due to COVID-19 related complications and rising coronavirus infections during the second wave of the pandemic in the country.

Basic Education spokesperson, Elijah Mhlanga, says it is too early to give a comprehensive picture of what is going on in all provinces.

Matric results are expected to be made public on 22 February. The university academic year has also been pushed back with the University of Johannesburg and Wits indicating that first-year students will only start their lectures on 8 March.