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Tertiary calendar delayed by lockdown

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Universities will be able to commence classes only in March, as matric results will be released on February 23 next year.

The matric class of 2020 will be writing their final exams until December 15. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA).

UNIVERSITIES will be able to commence classes only in March, as matric results will be released on February 23 next year.

The loss of teaching time due to hard lockdown means the matric class of 2020 will be writing their final exams up until December 15.

Until then, school-leavers will be left in the lurch when it comes to planning the next step in their studies or careers because universities offer firm places once final results are released.

Universities were hoping to send out acceptance offers within the following week.

Umalusi, the examination authority for South Africa’s National Senior Certificate (NSC), said despite the educational hangover from lockdown, the exams would not be easier or cover less content.

Umalusi spokesperson Lucky Ditaunyane said: “The content of NSC question papers has not changed.”

“Umalusi expects 2020 matric results of all assessment bodies to be released before the end of February 2021.”

Minister for Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, said combining the June exams (Amended Senior Certificate, or adult matric) with the November exams meant a record number of candidates would write.

“The combined examination makes this the largest public examination that has been administered in our country. More than 1 million (1 058 699) candidates will sit for the examinations; and we certainly have never had to manage a number that large before,” said Motshekga.

The demands of physical distancing combined with the increased number of candidates means that across the country, extra venues and invigilators were booked. Teachers have also been giving up their weekends and after-school hours to help prepare pupils for their final examinations.

Spokesperson for the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), Bronagh Hammond, said the projected results date left a longer period than usual between the end of exams and the release of results to allow sufficient time for marking and standardisation.

She said matrics in the province should have everything they need to excel in the exams.

“The earlier return (to school) as well as the delayed start date for exams has allowed matrics almost the same amount of teaching and learning days as they would have had in a normal year. The WCED has also provided more resources to the class of 2020 than any other matric class before them. We are doing all we can to try and take advantage of all learning opportunities with our learners.”

Stellenbosch University spokesperson Martin Viljoen, said they would be pushing to get final offers to prospective students as soon as the NSC exam results are out.

“If all goes well, we are aiming to publish our final offers within three working days after the release of the matric results,” he said.

Viljoen said the university had convened a task team to look into the possible challenges that first-years might face when tackling tertiary-level academics, after an interrupted matric year.

UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola, said their 2021 academic calendar would also need to be adjusted to accommodate the late matric results, but he could not comment on when exactly term would be commencing.

He also noted that the National Benchmark Tests, which were usually an important tool used by universities to determine a candidate’s readiness to cope with academics, did not go ahead and so can’t be used as part of the admission criteria.

“The UCT faculties are cognisant of these challenges and will implement interventions to address them,” he said.

Matrics experiencing anxiety and stress can call 080 045 4647 to access psycho-social support.