The question relating to baby rape in the dramatic arts matric examination was in poor taste, Umalusi council chairperson Sizwe Mabizela said on Monday.
"On behalf of Umalusi, we wish to offer our full and wholesome apology to the nation for allowing such a question to find its way into the examination paper," he told reporters in Pretoria.
"We undertake to be more vigilant in the future to ensure that such an incident does not recur. All I can offer is a sincere apology."
The seven marks allocated to the question were deducted from the total mark for the paper. "It would be inappropriate to simply say that by removing these seven marks we have dealt with the problem. There may well be emotional trauma which a learner may experience which may affect their performance in the rest of the paper.
"We are not oblivious to the impact that this might have had on the general learners' experience of the question paper. We hope that the least we did helps to compensate for that," he said.
Some pupils, teachers and parents were reportedly upset by a question that asked pupils how best to dramatically represent the rape of a baby, using a loaf of bread and a broomstick. The exam question was based on Lara Foot Newton's play Tshepang, based on real events.
In November, Umalusi said drama pupils offended by a question were unprepared. The external quality assurance council that approved the exam said dramatic arts was a subject that aimed to free pupils' minds of bigotry and prejudice. "That some learners by implication were offended by the question means the outcomes of the subject were not achieved," spokesperson Lucky Ditaunyane said in a statement at the time.
"[T]herefore the learners are conceptually conflating and fudging the real issue of not being test wise and test prepared in dealing with the levels of difficulty and complexity of the test items."
Earlier on Monday, Umalusi announced that it had approved the release of the 2013 national matric results. Chief executive Mafu Rakometsi said his institution took its stewardship role of examination quality assurance very seriously. "I am delighted, on behalf of Umalusi, to report that we have successfully delivered on our mandate," he said.
"As we know, milestones and achievements are in most cases a product of collective effort. Today's media briefing is a pinnacle of the hard work by Umalusi staff, to ensure that Umalusi delivers on its mandate as a quality council."
He said the candidates and their parents were eager to know whether Umalusi had ensured the credibility of their qualifications.
Rakometsi said immense effort had been made to ensure the quality of the 2013 examination results.
Earlier this month, the basic education department said matric examination paper marking had been completed and Minister Angie Motshekga would release the national and provincial results on January 6.
On January 7 individual pupils' results would be available at schools and in print and online media. The department said its 35 000 markers, working in 118 marking centres, completed their task on December 15 and the subsequent data capturing process had been concluded. A total of 57 690 full-time and 130 646 part-time candidates sat for the exams in 6 699 centres.
The department said it had added security features, including a watermark and a serial number, to the statement of results to be issued to pupils. – Sapa