The thousands of matric learners across the country who are anxiously waiting to hear whether they will have to rewrite the maths paper 2 and the physical science paper 2 exams next week, should have certainty by the end of this week. Judge Norman Davis, sitting in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, remarked that this issue had to be decided by Friday at the latest.
Four separate groups have lodged urgent applications asking for the same end result – that the decision made by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga last week that the two leaked exam question papers be rewritten by all matric learners, be overturned.
The one application is by civil rights organisation AfriForum who is assisting four pupils in this legal bid, the other by a group of individual pupils from Ermelo, in Mpumalanga, the third by the South African Democratic Teachers Union and the fourth by another group of five Gauteng pupils.
The urgent applications were supposed to be heard together, but counsel acting for the minister indicated that her opposing affidavit was not yet ready. The judge was assured that it would be ready in time for the proceedings to go ahead tomorrow.
Judge David questioned why the minister’s papers were not ready and remarked that he had only received the papers from exam assurer, Umalusi. This, he said, while he had already received all the papers from the applicants.
He said it was simply too late to only hear the application on Friday and urged the respondents to be ready onThursday.
He was told that there was a lot to answer to by the minister in opposing the applications and that the time to do so was short.
Some of the applicants also complained that they did not receive the record of the proceedings which led the minister to decide that the two leaked exams had to be rewritten.
Judge Davis ordered that the record had to be given to them after court proceedings.
The court was told that while all four applications boiled down to the same legal issue – whether the decision by the minister to order the rewrite was rational – some of the arguments presented will slightly differ.
General secretary of the teachers’ union, John Maluleke, said in an affidavit filed that it sounds like the minister took the decision for the exams to be rewritten ”while at gun point from the hands of the twelfth respondent (Umalusi)” .
This cannot be acceptable in an open and democratic society rooted in the rule of law, Maluleke said.
He added that “the panic-stricken first respondent (minister) seems to be extremely fearful of the twelfth respondent (Umalusi) who has unjustifiably entered the terrain of the exam leakage…”
“The information that the first respondent uses to infringe the rights of thousands and thousands of learners, some of whom are from indignant families and who do not even have the luxury of technology, constitutes a gross violation of the rights of these learners.”
Maluleke said the necessity to rewrite is not explained by the minister .
”It can hardly be suggested that to rewrite is the simplest solution to achieve the desired end.”
He added that a grave injustice is about to be inflicted upon thousands and thousands of helpless and voiceless learners.
AfirForum meanwhile said in their applications that the minister cannot simply order everyone to rewrite, while only about 195 learners saw the leaked papers.
It said the department should focus on the guilty persons and that there are means to determine which learners did gain unfair benefit from the leaked papers.
Several learners in the individual applications also submitted affidavits in which they asked not to be punished for the transgression of a few who saw the leaked papers.
A 17-year-old Mamelodi pupil, who lives with her domestic worker mother and four siblings, said she expected to do well in both the maths and science papers she wrote.
She said she did not have access to the leaked papers and she had already handed in her school books.
A Montana High School matric pupil also confirmed that she had handed in her books and got rid of her exam notes, as she never expected to rewrite the exams.
She added that on Tuesday, when she is expected to rewrite maths, she and her parents are supposed to leave on holiday.