Statement by the Director-General of the Department of Basic Education, Mr Mathanzima Mweli, at the media briefing on the progress of marking of the combined matric examination scripts
Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Thank you so much for attending the media briefing.
It has become necessary to hold this briefing because there is a lot of interest in the developments in the basic education sector at the moment regarding the marking of the scripts of the matric class of 2020.
As you may already know staggered marking started in December 2020 in three provinces; Mpumalanga, Gauteng and Limpopo. Marking started in earnest in all provinces this past week.
I have had the pleasure of visiting about 97 centres in 6 provinces as of today. From this briefing, we proceed to Limpopo, Mpumalanga and concluding the monitoring visits in KwaZulu-Natal later this week.
For the first time in the history of the administration of the examinations, the basic education sector has placed health and safety as priority number 1. There has been anxiety and fear among markers and their families to the extent that some of the marking personnel opted to withdraw from the process. While some withdrew due to the fear, others withdrew because they themselves tested positive for COVID-19 or somebody in the family had tested positive. In the majority of the cases in the Eastern Cape, most if not all of the markers who tested positive reported that they had recently attended weddings, funerals or a family ceremony with a considerable amount of people present. This confirms to us once again that social gatherings and the lack of compliance in such settings remain our single biggest challenge when it comes to the fight against COVID-19. We need to do more in our spaces to prevent the spread of the coronavirus otherwise the impact of the virus will hurt our efforts of flattening the curve.
In the monitoring visits to the marking centres we have impressed upon our colleagues to do everything possible to avoid infections. We have pleaded with the management at centres to monitor compliance so as to avoid outbreaks. I must say that I am impressed with what I have seen in different provinces regarding the wearing of masks, social distancing and the availability and use of sanitisers.
We are however concerned with developments in once centre in Estcourt in KwaZulu-Natal. It seems one of our colleagues went to the centre already feeling sick and unfortunately passed away in hospital as a result of COVID related complications. We are told that another colleague, also a marker, has now tested positive.
At this time I want to take this opportunity to convey our deepest condolences to all the families who have lost their loved ones to COVID-19. In the sector, we have lost our colleague Mr Themba Kojana, the Head of Department of the Eastern Cape Education Department. We worked well together, we were both DDGs at DBE and when I was appointed DG shortly thereafter he was appointed as HOD in the Eastern Cape. His memorial service takes place tomorrow (12 January) and the funeral on 14 January in Aliwal North.
It is for reason that the Minister has instructed me to convey a special message of gratitude and thanks to all the markers who have chosen to take up the task of marking under extremely difficult conditions. We know it was not an easy decision to take, it is only the love for the country that can make one to decide in this way. We truly appreciate the contribution.
We held a session with our key stakeholders at the weekend; we met with school governing body associations, principal associations, and civil society and teacher unions. The purpose of the meeting was to share the progress of the marking process but to also obtain feedback on areas that need improvement. We took all the input and we will apply as we continue to make safety the apex priority in basic education. The engagement has been fruitful and the support extremely useful. Thank you, thank you once again.
It is because of this commitment from colleagues in the marking centres that as a sector we feel that we are still on schedule to complete marking as scheduled on 22 January 2021.
Markers who have withdrawn have been replaced. Let me now hand over to the Director for Examinations at DBE, Mrs Priscilla Ogunbanjo to make a presentation on the progress of the marking progress. She will speak more about the reserve lists and other technical aspects of the marking process.
Let me conclude with a reminder to all that we must continue to wear our masks, sanitize, wash hands, and keep social distancing, avoid large gatherings, and stay safe.
Source: Government of South Africa