It's exams vs voting for South African matriculants

Nearly a million matriculants are writing their exams. Education officials have urged them to vote and then rush back home to study.

An IEC official sets up a banner at the Goodwood Park Primary voting station in Cape Town on 1 November 2021. Picture: Lauren Isaacs/Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - For Sharon Mnisi of Emalahleni, in Mpumalanga, Monday may just be a day of relaxation and reflection. She had several discussions with friends on which party or candidate to vote for.

But there was no consensus. By Monday afternoon, the Witbank Technical High student was still undecided on whether or not to vote at all.

"It's a critical decision that I still need to make. I am still deciding."

But something else is dominating the 18-year-old's thinking right now. She will be writing her next matric exam on Wednesday: "The pressure hasn't been that much because I have been preparing for weeks now. So, I made it easier for myself by preparing early. It's going well so far."

Two hours away from Mini's Emalahleni home, another matriculant is thinking about both the exams and the elections. On Monday afternoon, 18-year-old Amy Jooste and a group of friends were making their way to their nearest polling station. She's a grade 12 student at La Salle College in Roodepoort.

"You know, they say you have to be the change you want to see. So, the elections are important", she tells Eyewitness News. After voting, the 18-year-old will be rushing back home. She can't afford to waste any time because she has another crucial exam on Tuesday: "Right now, I'm going to be be studying Biology because that's what I'm writing [Tuesday]."

This year, more than 958,000 pupils are sitting to write their final year exams in public schools while 36,000 others are doing so in private schools. Mnisi is in a government school, while Jooste goes to a private institution.

The Department of Basic Education's Elijah Mhlanga told Eyewitness News on Monday the matric exams were going according to plan so far: "We had the first big paper written on Wednesday, the 27th of October. It went very well. We had 609,000 candidates sitting for that paper, which was English paper one. There weren't any incident to worry us. We have advised them that if they are eligible to vote and are registered, they should make their way to the voting stations, make their mark and quickly go back to study."

But this doesn't mean education officials aren't worried at all. They want to ensure there aren't any leaked papers in the coming days and weeks. "The papers that we will need to come back and talk about closer to or after they have been written are Mathematics, Life Sciences and Accounting. Those are the papers that generally give us problems", said Mhlanga.

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