Cape Town – The Western Education Department and unions said they were surprised by Tuesday night’s announcement by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to allow pupils who had tested positive for Covid-19 to write the matric exam, saying they were not consulted on the matter.
On the eve of the final matric exam, DBE spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said DBE and the Department of Health had concluded an agreement that would ensure pupils who tested positive were allowed to write their exams.
This was after the department received requests from concerned parents and pupils that they review their previously issued set of guidelines which indicated that pupils who were Covid-19-positive would not be allowed to enter the exam centre.
Mhlanga said the two departments jointly considered the requests and deliberated on the practical implications. He said it was agreed that candidates who tested positive, and deemed fit to write the exam, would be allowed to write albeit at a different venue and under secure conditions that were in compliance with the exam regulations.
Western Cape Education Department (WCED) spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said the administration of the first day of yesterday’s NSC exams had gone well. Hammond said the WCED was thankfully not aware of any positive Grade 12 Covid-19 candidates. She said the WCED had not yet received the protocol document with regards to the announcement made by the DBE on Tuesday night.
“Therefore please contact DBE on the plan for learners who tested positive as we were not consulted on this.”
National Professional Teachers Organisation of SA (Naptosa) executive director Basil Manuel said: “This action by the department has prompted Naptosa to address an urgent letter to the minister to convey our disappointment that a decision of this significance and impact upon our members could be taken without our knowledge and input.”
Manuel said they had informed the minister that while they acknowledged the right of pupils to sit for an exam, they would not have the health and safety of their members compromised.
South African Democratic Teachers Union general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said the decision was in violation of the isolation protocols of the department of health which stated that once tested positive, an individual must isolate.