Matric exams start this week – with strict new rules around WhatsApp and messaging

South Africa’s government schools will commence with the National Senior Certificate examinations on Wednesday (27 October), with the Department of Education introducing strict rules to ensure that the matric examinations are fair.

This comes after the 2020 examinations were marred by allegations of cheating when it emerged that the Mathematics Paper 2 and Physical Sciences Paper 2 exams had leaked and begun circulating on instant messaging platforms such as WhatsApp.

The department has indicated that it will be taking a zero-tolerance stance on cheating and sharing exam materials to combat this.

“In cases where a question paper, or part of a question paper, is forwarded by a candidate via email, SMS, WhatsApp or through any other electronic means, and the candidate fails to report such an incident to the school principal or the WhatsApp hotline, he or she will be deemed complicit,” it said.

“All candidates will be required to complete the Electronic Devices’ Register, which will be managed by the school. The register will require all candidates to record all details of the cellphone or any other electronic device that they will be using during the examination period.”

Any student who is alleged to have had access to a question paper before an examination will also be required to submit their device to the Department of Education for further investigation, it said.

A total of 897,786 candidates will sit for the November 2021 matric examinations, with English set to be the first examination held on Wednesday (27 October). The last examination is set to be held on 7 December.

While the examinations were initially scheduled for the start of November, the department decided to move them up by four days to accommodate the local government elections on 1 November.

The department said that the matric exams include 207 question papers written over 25 days, with no vacant spaces available in the five-week period to accommodate the new date of the elections.

It said that the change would impact several papers, including:

  • English (home language, first-additional language and second additional language);
  • Business studies;
  • Non-official languages.

Read: Updated level 1 lockdown rules for schools and travel in South Africa

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Matric exams start this week – with strict new rules around WhatsApp and messaging