Education authorities in KwaZulu-Natal say the matric examinations got off to a smooth start. There were, however, sporadic incidences of learners who wrote in isolation rooms due to risks associated with COVID-19.

Speaking at the Nyonithwele Secondary School in Edendale at Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu said he is pleased that this year’s matric learners are able to start their final exams, even though it was debated a few months ago if the academic year should be extended into 2021 due to the pandemic.

More than 220 000 part-time and full-time candidates have registered for the matric exams in KwaZulu-Natal.

The English First Additional Language paper started off the big year-end exam: 

This province has the largest number of matriculants in the country. Apart from the coronavirus pandemic, some schools have suffered from sporadic incidents of violence.

Last month at Somashi High School in Msinga, an educator was shot and killed in front of teachers and learners.

But COVID-19 has undoubtedly been the biggest hurdle for this year’s matric class. In KwaZulu-Natal alone, 70 teachers died from COVID-19 related illnesses.

Just more than 3 000 learners, teachers, and other staff were infected with the virus. However, despite these challenges, the department says it is confident the province will produce good matric marks.

Learners that test positive

Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu says arrangements have been made for learners who have tested positive for COVID-19, to write their final matric exams.

“If a learner is infected and is still able to write, arrangements have been made for them to write in an isolated room. Even if they come to the gate and they present a temperature that is higher than usual they will be isolated and they will be able to write their examinations in separate rooms. So we have made sure that all our preparations take into account fully the regulations for COVID-19.”

Arrangements in place for those that get infected: 

Lost time 

Teachers and learners had to contend with the temporary closure and re-opening of schools as the lockdown intensified. Mshengu says many teachers and learners worked seven days a week over the past month to make up for the lost time.

“Even going forward we have made arrangements that the learners when they are not writing that particular day,  they are required to come to schools so that the teachers can walk them through until the final examination. So I am quite confident that despite the difficult conditions we have gone through we will be able to score a mark that will make the province proud.”

Challenges learners faced 

Nyonithwele Secondary School learners Mandiluve Jirashe and Mfanafuthi Mkhandwana are optimistic that they will achieve good results despite the challenges they faced studying.

“It was really hard for us to finish the syllabus because other schools were able to enrol online learning and we couldn’t. Some of us don’t have smartphones and our mothers and fathers cannot afford them. So, it was a rough year,” says Jirashe.

Mkhandwana says, “It’s very difficult to do mathematics in front of the teacher in the classroom and it’s even worse when the educator is teaching remotely. We also come from previously disadvantaged homes and we were battling to access the internet due to expensive data costs.”

KwaZulu-Natal’s Matric Class of 2019 achieved an 80% pass rate.