Storm brews over destroyed matric scripts

The destruction of about 150 matric scripts in Khayelitsha, in Cape Town, two weeks ago has brought into focus what measures exist to compensate pupils when their scripts are lost for reasons beyond their control—and the measures are proving controversial.

A car carrying the scripts was one of four set alight in Khayelitsha’s TR section on November 11, the Sowetan reported at the time. Residents had been torching buses, city vehicles and government cars nearly every day for the preceding two months in protests against service-delivery failures, the paper reported.

It also reported that the destroyed scripts were answers to the papers on mechanical technology and English (paper two).

Brian Schreuder, deputy director general for curriculum management in the Western Cape education department, said the fire burnt about 150 scripts from three schools. The scripts were among samples intended for pre-marking use to inform the marking memoranda that would be standardised and used for all scripts on those subjects.

Department of basic education spokesperson Granville Whittle told the Mail & Guardian that the provincial department had decided to allow the mechanical technology learners to rewrite the paper. This was because there was only one paper in this subject and the department had no policy on lost scripts when a subject examined only by one paper was involved.

The 20 learners concerned would be allowed to rewrite mechanical technology and would get their results with the rest of the matrics in January, Whittle said.

But the destroyed English scripts will involve different measures because the subject has more than one paper, watchdog body Umalusi told the M&G.

Where a candidate writes one paper and a second paper goes missing, the candidate will receive a mark for the second paper that equals the average mark of all the candidates who wrote that paper at the same school as the unfortunate candidate whose script got lost, Umalusi CEO Dr Mafu Rakometsi told the M&G.

Schreuder said candidates could opt to write a supplementary exam if they are unhappy with this calculated result.

But this was a flawed system, one Limpopo school principal told the M&G, arguing that the learners should be allowed to rewrite the exams.

“What is going to happen is that learners are going to get marks that they don’t deserve because they either were going to get a better mark or in some cases even less,” the principal said.

Another principal, from the Western Cape, said the department should allow all the learners to write the supplementary exam to even everything out. “This would require the learners to prepare again but I think it is the best possible way to ensure that all learners were marked fairly,” he said.

But Whittle said there was nothing unfair about this system because the learners were graded based on their performance in another paper. In the case of the English paper, which has three papers, the marks for the learners would be calculated by taking the mark for paper one and paper three.

“The average from these two will make up the mark for the missing paper and that mark will be adjusted adding the average mark of the learner’s classmates,” he said.

Regarding the different measures employed for one-paper exams and multi-paper exams, Eastern Cape educationist Marion Higgs said if one group of learners was given a chance to rewrite then other affected learners should be given the same opportunity.

But Higgs added that she understood the pressure the department and Umalusi were under. “It is going to be costly to find someone who will set that paper,” she said.

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