The South Africa Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) in Mpumalanga has accused the education authorities of destroying the future of the teachers and pupils who are implicated in the exam cheating scandal by delaying the release of the final report and its findings.
SADTU provincial chairperson Walter Hlaise told African Times that the matter had a negative impact on education, as the implicated teachers were not allowed to be part of the team that would be marking the exams due to the ongoing investigation against them.
Learners whose results are pending remain in the dark about their futures and the way forwards, he said. The exam scandal surfaced In January after it was suspected that more than 1000 pupils in the province’s Bohlabela region had cheated, which led to their results being withheld.
“Our members cannot be able to continue without their lives because they are under investigation. In investigations like this, innocent people are being affected, which is why we are saying the relevant bodies must speed up the investigations. Some students are innocent, but their lives are on hold now, and they have been sitting at home since January,” Hlaise said.
“It is true that the students whose results are still pending are in the dark. Even as a union, we don’t know the latest information concerning the matter. The investigation report must be released so that people can go on with their lives. There are learners that I know who are still waiting for their results.”
Two sources familiar with the matter – a teacher who invigilated matric examinations and a provincial government official – said after the allegations surfaced, the results of the learners were released bit by bit, which made the process long.
“What I can tell you is that some of the results are still pending,” said the source.
A leaked document from the department showed that 128 learners from different schools around Manyeleti near Hoedspruit were “investigated after being suspected of cheating during the 2022 grade 12 final exams”.
Another document also seen by African Times showed that 37 students who were found guilty of cheating were given letters informing them that they would have to rewrite the subjects in November 2024.
Another letter from the Mpumalanga Department of Education, however, contradicted the second document by stating that “the department will offer you (students) to rewrite the affected subject papers in June 2023”.
One of the affected pupils, Bennet Ndlovu, 19, from Hlabekisa Secondary School in Manyeleti, Bohlabela region, said his results in life science, and maths had been withheld.
“I have been waiting for the results since February. Nobody is updating me about the progress of the investigation. Some received letters telling them that they have been found guilty and they will be rewriting in November 2024. As for me and others, we don’t know what is happening,” Ndlovu said.
“I wanted to go to the Vaal University of Technology to study Mechanical Engineering. To be honest with you, at our school, no one cheated during the exams.”
Another learner, Lindo Khoza, 20, from Manyeleti, said her life science results had also been withheld.
“I wanted to go to the University of Johannesburg to study law but that dream had been destroyed.”
Sunday World has been told that the 37 pupils who had been found guilty have approached the lawyer challenging the verdict. Erick Nxumalo High School and Nghunghunyane High School are among the affected schools
The student’s legal representative, Advocate July Sibuyi, has confirmed that he was preparing for the case against the department and quality assurer Umalusi.
“Before I became a lawyer, I was a teacher, so I see that the matter involving these children was not handled properly. And the contradictory letters from the department also raise questions. I will let you know when I am done with the preparation because we want to launch an urgent application so that the matter could be heard probably next week.”
The Mpumalanga Department of Education has denied allegations that they were dragging their feet in the investigation of irregularities that happened during the 2022 grade 12 final exams.
Spokesperson Jasper Zwane said: “The 2022 National Senior Certificate Examination Results for all candidates within the province, including those implicated in irregularities, were released. The only subject results which did not appear in the statement of results were those which were implicated.”
“The learners who were found guilty following a due process had the affected papers/ subjects nullified. 974 candidates were found guilty following a due process that took about three months to conclude and all of them received the outcome/s of the investigations.”
Zwane said some candidates have since appealed for leniency relating to the imposed sanctions, while others opted to approach the court.
He refused to comment further about those taking court action.
“Given that the matter is now in court, the department regards it as subjudice and will prefer to cooperate with that process and to refrain from making public statements. Be that as it may, the view of the department is that the credibility and integrity of the examination are paramount and that any wrongdoing must be dealt with in accordance with the policy framework which governs such an examination.”
The same questions were sent to Umalusi’s Public Relations and Communication officer Biki Lepota who failed to respond to the email and text messages.