The department announced the move on Saturday, following a meeting with the Council of Education Ministers (CEM).
The council is made up of education MECs.
Its resolve follows a high court judgment on Friday, which set government’s decision for matrics to write the leaked papers on December 15 and 17, respectively.
“CEM agreed that the Class of 2020 has been confronted by many challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, and it would therefore be unfair to further subject the Class of 2020, their teachers and parents to further uncertainties and exacerbate the anxieties they currently face.”
Congress Of South African Students (Cosas) is elated over the developments.
Reacting to the Friday court ruling, the organisation’s National Spokesperson, Douglas Ngobeni, said: “We are happy that the court made a sober ruling, a sober decision that our learners can not be subjected to cleaning up after the mess of the Department of Basic Education.”
The Professional Educators Union (Peu) has welcomed the Department of Basic Education’s decision for leaked exams to be rewritten.
This comes amid dissent over the decision announced by Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, on Friday. She said matriculants will re-write maths paper 2 and physical science paper 2 on 15 and 17 December, respectively.
The task team set up to probe the matter has said it couldn’t establish how many schools and learners had access to the two leaked papers prior the exam.
Peu Spokesperson, Klass Mohlatlole, says it is those findings that made the organisation throw its weight behind the DBE’s stance.
Mohlatlole adds that this should be done to protect the quality of education and matric results.
The union is urging matriculants to ignore calls for a rewrite boycott.
The call comes amid revolt from learner organisation Cosas and teachers union Sadtu. Both organisations have approached the courts in a bid to have the decision overturned. Cosas National Spokesperson Douglas Ngobeni filed an urgent interdict in the High Court in Pretoria on Tuesday, while Sadtu went to court on Monday.
“Part of the documents which were submitted to the court of law are the affidavits written by learners expressing their outrage regarding the exam rewrite”, Ngobeni says.
Ngobeni adds that their rejection of the exam rewrite was derived from concerns from learners.
Some learners have expressed frustration over the department of basic education’s decision that they rewrite the leaked maths and physical sciences papers.
During an interview with rights group, Equal Education, Ntombi Mngomezulu, matric learner from KwaZulu-Natal, said: “It’s unfair that all learners will have to suffer for what was done by a few greedy individuals… I’m not prepared [to rewrite]. I’ve told myself that I’m done and that was it… Only the schools [where learners] were found responsible should rewrite. Not the whole country.”
Another matric learner and Equal Education member from Gauteng added: “We as learners have to suffer emotional trauma once more trying to prepare again, keeping in mind that we never had the chance to finish the syllabus thoroughly. I think we should not be rewriting since the Minister (Motshekga) and Umalusi have not given us tangible evidence as to why everyone should write and how far the paper was spread.”
Benedict Matsaung from Limpopo, however, believes the national rewrite is fair. “The rewrite of the maths and physics papers will be fair. The reason is people have worked very hard and they didn’t sleep, while others had practiced with a question paper. Speaking on behalf of my sister, she said that “she is ready to write again” because she [spent] almost 18 hours practicing things that she is not sure about.”
She said it was motivated by the fact that preliminary investigations into the matter – couldn’t pin point to the number of learners who had access to the papers as they had been distributed through social media.
However, Equal Education says it is extremely concerned about the stress and uncertainty that has been caused by the leaking of the papers, and the DBE’s decision.
“Matric learners and teachers have had to struggle against many horrible difficulties this year to reach the final exams. As we have said many times before, the COVID-19 pandemic made the shortage of learning materials and other resources in schools in poor and working class communities even worse,” says the organisation.
Equal Education says the DBE and examinations regulator, Umalusi, have not made a convincing case for the move.
“The leaking of exam papers is very serious, but Umalusi and the DBE have not made a strong enough case for why insisting on a national rewrite is appropriate at this moment.”
Equal Education is urging education authorities to explain to the nation how far these papers were circulated and how many questions, from each paper, learners had access to.
“This is a terrible situation, and we understand that it is complicated. It does not seem that Umalusi or the DBE spoke to learners before coming to this decision, and we urge them to do that immediately.”
The organisation is calling for the urgent tightening of the security of the matric question papers, saying learners can’t be punished for weaknesses in the DBE’s security systems and for the criminals who try to make money from the desperation of learners.
Teachers’ union, Sadtu, is taking the matter to court, while learners’ organisation, Cosas, has urged learners to boycott the exams.