“Your guess is as good as mine.”

This was the response by Umalusi CEO Mafu Rakometsi when asked by several MPs on Tuesday how the Covid-19 pandemic was going to affect the 2020 matric examination. 

Umalusi – the body that has to ensure matric examinations meet the required standards – briefed the basic education committees of both houses of Parliament on Tuesday. 

While it is unclear how the Covid-19 pandemic is going to affect matric examinations, it seems set in stone that the class of 2020 will be tested on the whole curriculum.

Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande told reporters on Saturday that they have done all they can to ensure that students are able to get their materials and get online.

Rakometsi said, from a quality assurance perspective, they couldn’t water down the curriculum.

“They must know what other students have always known.

“What won’t change, is the work students will be tested on.”

He said cutting the curriculum would stigmatise the class of 2020.

“These students will be condemned for the rest of their lives”.

Contingency plans

Rakometsi told the virtual meeting that they had regular meetings on the matter, and also with the Department on Basic Education.

So far the pandemic had affected their budget, as they had to spend money on things they had not budgeted for, like personal protective equipment.

He said they had contingency plans and were continuously looking at the situation.

“Unfortunately the situation is fluid, as we all know,” he said.

Umalusi Council chairperson John Volmink said: “Covid-19 could not have come at a worse time for an organisation like Umalusi.”

He said they had a responsibility to conduct credible exams.

They would have a special meeting on Friday, Volmink said, adding that Covid-19 had thrown most of their plans into disarray. It took 18 months to set exams, he said.

“We don’t have 18 months to reset exams.”

Like Rakometsi, he was adamant that they would not change the curriculum.

Rufus Poliah, chief director for national assessment and public examinations of the department, said if learners returned to schools on 1 June, they would have lost 42 schooling days. If they reduced the June and September holidays and extended the fourth term, they could make up those days.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga is set to give an update on the preparations for the reopening of schools on Tuesday evening at 18:00. 

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