By Reon Janse van Rensburg
The Department of Basic Education (DBE) announced last week (16 November 2020) that the second math paper written by this year’s matriculants during the 2020 final examination had been leaked a few hours prior to it being written.
In the department’s initial statement it was said that learners in Gauteng and Limpopo had access to the leaked exam paper, but after further investigation it was found that learners in all the provinces except the Free State had access to the exam paper. However, it is not yet clear where it was initially leaked.
According to the department, its investigation team is currently looking into the incident and the Hawks and other IT experts are also assisting in the investigation.
The department said they became aware of the incident after the department’s spokesperson, Elijah Mhlanga, had received an email from a university student in Johannesburg who runs an NGO specialising in assisting learners with school subjects. The exam paper was attached to the email.
The student received the exam paper from four learners who asked for assistance, and they themselves had become suspicious of the exam paper. The exam paper was also forwarded via WhatsApp, and it was forwarded in several groups by matriculants who tried to help each other.
According to the department, the leaking of the exam paper did not necessarily undermine the integrity of the paper.
The department announced that the first phase of the investigation will be completed by 30 November, after which the second phase will be completed by the end of January 2021.
The investigation team will have to determine the source of the leaked exam paper as well as the extent of this leakage, and then they will have to make recommendations and they will have to be able to say with certainty whether the credibility of the exam paper has been jeopardised or not. The investigation team must also make recommendations that will ensure that exam papers will not be leaked in future.
The department also mentioned that the outcome of the investigation would determine whether the leaked exam paper had been distributed more widely than only in certain areas of the affected provinces, and the investigation will also determine if and where a rewrite will be necessary.
According to Solidarity’s Support Centre for Schools (SCS), leaked exam papers jeopardise the integrity of the matric exam. With rumours that the second Physical Science paper was also leaked yesterday (23 November 2020), serious questions arise regarding the security of exam papers. There have been no cases of leaked papers since 2016, possibly indicating that the source is an adult in the inner circles. The events call into question the integrity of the department, although strict measures have been put in place by the DBE to avoid precisely these types of situations. The SCS emphasised that strict action must be taken against the guilty parties and that the matter must be resolved as soon as possible so that the learners may end their year successfully and with a credible qualification.