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Monday, November 29, 2021

ANALYSIS| Ray Of Hope As Students Prepare To Write The Second Matric Exams Under Covid-19 Guidelines

LUCAS LEDWABA|

They say the only certainty about life is that it goes on regardless of whatever calamities may befall a community or mankind in general.

This should be one of life’s lessons the Matric Class of 2020 may have learnt after sitting for the National Senior Certificate (NSC) following a prolonged break from school due to the outbreak of Covid-19 last year.

The class of 2020, despite the challenges brought about by the outbreak of the pandemic, registered a respectable 76.2 percent pass rate.

So far the pandemic has killed more than 4 million people worldwide.

While efforts have been made to halt its devastation, including the roll-out of vaccination including for youths between the ages of 12 and 17, the corona virus remains an ever present danger as the class of 2021 sits for their final exams starting on Wednesday 27 October.

The outbreak of the pandemic on such a global scale was the first of its kind since the outbreak of the Spanish flu in 1918 and caught the entire world, including the superpowers with their superior facilities, napping.

But what lessons have been learnt from the past year and half of death, mayhem and confusion, especially on the education and schooling front besides the fact that life must, should and will go on regardless of a pandemic or not?

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) announced that the 2021 National Senior Certificate (NSC) examination will officially commence on Wednesday.

The youngsters sitting for the exams are expected to “wash their” pens on 7 December 2021 as is the tradition throughout the years after writing exams.

The Department of Basic Education says a total of 897 786 candidates will sit for the examinations, comprising 735 677 full-time candidates and 162 109 part-time candidates.

According to the department, the candidates will be sitting for the examinations at 6 326 public examination centres, 526 independent centres and 326 designated centres.

So far, all stakeholders appear to be agreeing that the environment is conducive for the commencement of the matric exams.

There hasn’t been much of the eye poking and political point-scoring that have become synonymous with this period.

It appears Covid-19 has made all stakeholders, unions and political parties to avoid using matriculants and matric exams as some sort of bargaining tool that can be used to score political points.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) had earlier expressed some discomfort with the fact that some learners who are eligible to vote would not be able to do so if the exams took place on the same day as the local government election on November 1.

It is not clear how much of a constituency the DA boasts among high school learners. But they appeared prepared to take up this matter in their usual combative style.

However, this particular hoo-hah has been easily deflated.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has declared November 1 a public holiday.

Furthermore, the Department of Basic Education has brought forward exams that were scheduled for that particular day.

The DA has no bone to chew with anyone on this now.

The country’s main opposition party has also called for all to take precautions on covid-19 prevention going into the exams.

The SA Democratic Union (SADTU), which has a history of using such moments to test its power by threatening industrial action and all manner of labour action, has also added a positive voice.

The union noted the importance of the exams in the lives of the learners and commended the 2021 class for doing their best to prepare for these exams by attending extra-classes to compensate for the time lost due to disturbances caused by COVID 19 pandemic.

Critically, the union noted that many of the learners had to work harder to cover the Grade 11 work which they could not complete in 2020 due to the academic year disrupted by covid-19.

The union has also urged learners eligible for vaccination to take up the offer.

The reality of covid-19 however remains ever present and the Department has warned that candidates that demonstrate COVID-19 symptoms as well as candidates that test positive will be allowed to write their examination at special isolation venues that have been arranged.

It appears that lessons from last year, when there was a lot of fear, uncertainty and a level of stigmatisation, have been learnt.

The department has announced that to accommodate the negative effects of Covid19, measures such as the provision of supplementary material, vacation classes, after-school programmes, teacher content training and placement of volunteer teachers were implemented this year.

It further noted that the education sector at large placed strong emphasis on the areas of psycho-social support for learners and teachers, curriculum coverage monitoring, extra school based tuition such as morning or afternoon and weekend classes, ICT utilisation in the form of television, radio, online and web-based platforms, peer-led study groups and the provision of additional LTSM.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has advised that whether a child should go to school depends on their health condition, the current transmission of COVID-19 within their community, and the protective measures the school and community have in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

With some dissenting voices calling for resistance against Covid-19 vaccination, perhaps this should serve as a wakeup call that vaccination is not just an act that serves the interests of an individual, but those of society at large, including school children who are meant to sit for an exam.

After all, life, regardless of what happens, goes on.

  • * Inside Education
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