Matrics will write exams in November

The matric class of 2020 will sit for its final exam from November 5 until December 15, the department of basic education announced in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.

It will be a combined examination that will accommodate some learners who were meant to write in May and June, but had the exam postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Following President Cryil Ramaphosa’s announcement of the lockdown in March, schools closed earlier than scheduled for the end of the first term. Grades 7 and 12 were the first group of learners to return to school in June, following Cabinet and the National Coronavirus Command Council’s approval for the phased-in approach of reopening schools.

“The late commencement of the final Grade 12 examinations will allow schools and learners adequate time to cover the curriculum and also to ensure that ample time is allocated for revision of the syllabus,” reads the statement. 

While the department took a decision to trim the curriculum for the other grades and is likely only to conclude the scheduled work next year, the curriculum was not trimmed for grade 12. 


As early as March, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga made it clear that matric learners would sit for their final exam. In one of her earliest press briefings (in March) about schooling in the time of Covid-19, Motshekga said the class of 2020 would write “by hook or crook”. 


Motshekga said Grade 12 needed to write their exams because their examination had already been set. The exams usually start in October and finish in November. 

According to the statement, the department expects 1.1-million candidates to sit for the exam and has said that those who have registered will receive their admission letters by the end of September. “Registration for this examination has closed and, unfortunately, no late registration can be entertained.”

Grade 12s returned to class on August 3 after President Cyril Ramaphosa had announced a re-closure of schools late in July as the country was seeing a rise in Covid-19 cases. Grade 12 closed for a week, while the other grades are due to return to class from August 24. By the end of August, all learners will be back in school.

As far back as May, some Grade 12 learners told the Mail & Guardian that they were likely to drop out of school as they did not feel confident that they would do well in the exam because they had lost out on much school time. Some of these learners said they did not have access to online learning and found it difficult to study on their own without the assistance of teachers. 

The class of 2019 matric pass rate surpassed the 80% mark for the first time in democratic South Africa, something that was celebrated by some in the education sector. It remains to be seen how the class of 2020 will perform, considering the challenges of schooling during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Bongekile Macupe
Bongekile Macupe is an education reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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