The high court in Pretoria has granted an application by matric learner Anlé Spies, lobby group AfriForum and Maroela Media to compel the department of basic education to have last year’s matric examination results published in newspapers.
In the unopposed urgent application that was heard on Tuesday, Judge Anthony Millar lauded all the parties involved in the matter for acting in good faith in a matter that he said was of public and national interest.
According to the order, the basic education department will make the national senior certificate results available to be published on public media platforms, as well as at the schools the learners attended, as in previous years. However, there is one crucial difference: personal details, like the first and last names of the learners, may, however, not be published. Instead, learners’ results will be published only with their individual exam numbers.
The department of basic education, as the first respondent in the matter, was also ordered to pay the applicants’ costs unopposed.
“The results will be published and, as the judge made clear in interpreting the order, [they] will have to be made available to media houses. Which means that newspapers and online platforms will be able to publish those results, as had been done in the past,” said advocate Quintus Pelser, who represented the applicants.
On 10 January, the basic education department issued a letter stating that the 2021 matric results would not be published in newspapers, as had been the case in the past, saying the right to privacy of matriculants would be protected through the Protection of Personal Information Act (Popia).
Matric learners who wanted to access their results would need to register on the department’s website to obtain them.
According to Millar, just more than 10 000 users had registered on the website by 16 January. The judge noted that access to the internet was also an issue for many learners.
Pelser had argued that the website could crash if there were a large number of people who wanted to access it at the same time.
More than 700 604 candidates wrote the national senior certificate examinations in 2021.
The department released a statement acknowledging the court ruling and said the results would be made available to the relevant parties. It said provisions in Popia must be taken into account, as per Millar’s ruling, meaning the results must be published without identifying learners by name.