Facing COVID-19 and anxiety, Class of 2020 ready to write matric exams

More than 1 million matrics throughout the country will sit for the English Paper One on Thursday.

Picture: 123rf.com

JOHANNESBURG - Just hours before matrics write their first final exams on Thursday, the Sekano-Ntoane High School exam centre has screening forms outside each classroom, along with hand sanitisers.

More than 1 million matrics throughout the country will sit for the English Paper One on Thursday.

Pupils and teachers are also expected to abide by social distancing measures and an isolation room has been available for pupils as a precautionary measure.

Everything is in place, at least when it comes to COVID-19.

Deputy principal Pinky Maluleka said that pupils were also battling with anxiety.

“One of our top learners, I mean we are expecting distinctions from that learner, just two days ago, he came to us saying he would like to write next year because he feels that he is not going to get top marks. The support service from the district came and spoke to him and now he feels he will make it.”


The Department of Basic Education (DBE) said that it was all systems go for one of the largest groups of matriculants to begin writing exams.

With the world firmly gripped by the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s exams will be written under unprecedented conditions.

The impact of COVID-19 has seen the largest public exam ever held in South Africa, with school learners, part-time pupils, prisoners and others all writing at the same time.

Experts said that the combination was necessary to ensure that this year’s matric pupils were not disadvantaged in any way.

The department’s Elijah Mhlanga said that over 10,000 exam venues have been set up, while thousands of additional moderators and markers have had to be sourced to administer the mammoth task.

“We’ve got 1,058,159 pupils who are sitting for exams. That means we have up to 15 million question papers and answer sheets which are going to be collected at the end of the exam and you have a much large number of markers as well and invigilators who have to do their work from day one up to the end. So, it’s a big task involving a lot of people and a lot of travelling.”

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and Gauteng Education MEC Panyza Lesufi will on Thursday monitor the start of matric exams during an oversight visit to schools and exams centres in Soweto.


Provincial education departments across the country said they were optimistic that pupils would deliver rewarding pass rates, despite the pandemic and lockdown throwing the academic calendar and the curriculum into chaos.

Last year, the class of 2019 surpassed the 80% mark for the first time, with provinces including the Free State, The Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal seeing significant improvements.

Provincial governments said that they were not letting the impact of COVID-19 in the classroom affect their track records.

The Western Cape Education Department said it was prepared to host the biggest matric class ever to sit for the final exam with a target of an 80% pass rate.

Meanwhile, KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu said that the over 200 schools being vandalised during the lockdown had not affected their confidence about achieving a 100% pass rate.

Mabona said that following the tumultuous year, the department’s main aim had been to salvage the curriculum in time.

While there’s been an improvement in attendance, over 23,000 matric pupils are unaccounted for since schools reopened and are presumed to have dropped out.

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