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Minister stands firm on matric rewrites but union to challenge decision in court

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Basic Education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the department was going ahead with the rewrites despite opposition by unions.

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BASIC Education Minister Angie Motshekga and her department have vowed to go ahead and implement the decision to compel learners to rewrite two of their matric exams because of the leaking of question papers – despite legal action being threatened by the SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu).

Sadtu has threatened legal action against the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and examinations quality assurer Umalusi over the decision.

Motshekga announced on Friday that the matric maths paper 2 would be rewritten on December 15 and physical science paper 2 on December 17.

In a bid to block the department from forcing all learners who wrote the exams back to the exam room, Sadtu general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said the union would on Monday file an urgent court application to interdict the department’s decision.

The union believed the decision was unfair and premature because the investigation into the leaking of the papers had not been concluded.

“Based on the initial investigation which has shown that the number of learners who may have seen the papers is less than 200 out of the 390 000 who wrote the papers, there is no basis for a national rewrite,” he said.

National Professional Teachers Organisation of SA (Naptosa) executive director Basil Manuel said, according to the minister, a key finding of the preliminary report of the national investigation task team was that the viral spread of information on cyber networks made it virtually impossible to accurately identify the number of learners who had had access to the leaked question papers.

“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,” he said.

DBE spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the department was going ahead with the rewrites despite opposition by unions and the Congress of SA Students (Cosas), which has also threatened to legally challenge the decision.

“First, it is their prerogative to seek any relief they believe is necessary. Second, the department will wait for the matter to get to court upon which it will be defended. Until the court papers are received it remains unclear what case they intend to make in the court,” said Mhlanga.

Mhlanga insisted that the department had no choice but to subject all learners who sat for the subjects to a rewrite as the department had no way of knowing who had access to the leaked question papers.

Education activist Hendrick Makaneta said the minister’s decision would promote fairness in the National Senior Certificate assessments, particularly for those learners who took the time and the trouble to prepare for the examinations.

Cosas called on learners involved to boycott the rewriting of the exams, with its acting provincial secretary Mphumzi Giwu saying they believed that both the DBE and Umalusi had taken a premature decision, as the probe into the leaking of the papers was still under way.