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Angry parents allege dodgy exam marks, launch petition against SACAI

  • Nearly 2 500 parents have signed a petition alleging irregular and erratic results that their children received from SACAI after the 2023 matric exams.
  • SACAI set and marked the final exams for nearly 6 000 online-only and home-schooled learners last year.
  • Parents claim that the results were unexpectedly poor, even with prior excellence on the part of students, and they are seeking an investigation into SACAI’s capturing of marks for the final exams.

Thousands of parents have signed a petition alleging “irregularities within the marking and capturing process” of results from the 2023 matric exams set by the South African Comprehensive Assessment Institute (SACAI), one of South Africa’s three matric examination boards.

SACAI sets and marks final exams for online-only schools and home-schooled learners. Last week Friday, concerned parents created the petition which quickly swelled in support and currently has nearly 2 500 signatures. In a statement, SACAI said that 5 826 matric candidates sat for its end-year exams.

Parents say that they suspect irregularities with the results that their children received from SACAI last week, alleging that marks do not reflect the performance of their children and were unexpectedly low on average, even for learners that usually excel. They said that the results were “erratic” and unexplainable.

“We believe in the importance of a fair and transparent assessment system for our students, who have worked tirelessly throughout their academic journey,” reads the petition, created by parent Shehan Ross, which also co-administrates a WhatsApp group with thousands of other concerned parents.

“Suspicion of irregularities has raised significant doubt and concern among students and parents. This not only impacts the credibility of the results but also potentially affects the future opportunities of our students.”

The petition requests an “immediate and thorough investigation” into any alleged irregularities. “We collectively voice our concerns and demand transparency and fairness in the marking and capturing process of SACAI Matric Results,” it adds.

“SACAI sympathises with the candidates who did not achieve the desired results,” reads a pop up on the SACAI website as soon as it opens.

“SACAI appreciates open and transparent communication. Therefore, candidates who did not do well (through parents and legal guardians) to explore the following official options to circumvent the current negative social media rumour-mongering of the validity and credibility of the SACAI NSC class of 2023,” the statement continues.

Last week, along with results from the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the Independent Examinations Board (IEB), SACAI announced its results for the 2023 matric exams. Overall, its matrics achieved a 72 percent pass rate. The lowest of the three bodies, with the DBE at 83 percent, and the IEB at 98 percent.

SACAI did not immediately respond to our request for comment, but said on its website that it has been engaging with parents and candidate representatives to address concerns. Parents met on Friday to discuss their next steps. Some went to the SACAI offices, claiming that representatives of the body were willing to communicate and help them with their concerns.

Learners’ mental health negatively affected

Hypertext spoke to parents of children who wrote SACAI exams last week. They allege that the marks their children receive are incorrect, and are seeking an explanation.

One parent told us that their child – who studies at UCT Online High School – was a straight-A student for most of her schooling career, including the last three terms of matric and yet received unsatisfactory results for the final matric exams set by SACAI, including a failed mathematics mark. The parent showed Hypertext claimed report cards from the learner as evidence of past excellence.

The parent, who goes by Deshni, but did not give us a surname, said that her child was provisionally accepted for a number of degrees at university, including medicine and dentistry, but was now rejected due to her final marks.

“I have a devastated child, who feels like she wants to commit suicide,” Deshni told us. “Together with all of our other children. Other friends who are in the same boat, because she cannot go to university. We know for a fact that these are not her marks,” she added.

The child will now have to either rewrite or repeat matric, and will likely miss the 2024 academic year as an undergraduate.

Another irregularity alleged is that another learner received just five percent for their final mathematic exam mark, even though they had an A for their intern school-based assessment (SBA) mark, which is given for school work outside the final exams set by SACAI.

“Umalusi has the right to lower those marks, did the child get negative marks in her final paper in order for her to get five percent as her final mark? All of this does not make sense. We are saying that every single mark that the kids have gotten does not make sense. It’s inconsistent who children who have been A aggregate students,” she said.

Another parent, Lebogang Phalatse, told Hypertext “It seems there has been a mix up of the matric results because most of the results are erratic. My son he got three distinctions, but he is complaining about the English because his mark shot down from 70-something to 52. There looks like there was a mark that wasn’t added to make the final results.”

Like Deshni, Phalatse says that they have received rejections from universities due to claimed erratic marks.

SACAI says it is open to talk

The 2023 matric exams were the first that SACAI hosted as a fully accredited institution.

“We are currently speaking to the concerned parents through their various representatives who officially started this particular petition and there has been a meeting conducted today in terms of paving the way forward,” SACAI CEO Keith Maseko told Jacaranda News last week.

“We will also make sure that parents and candidates affected get the official mark that they deserve and make them understand why have achieved these particular marks.”

Until then the parents and children affected have little choice but to begin considering either rewriting or repeating matric. Some parents are engaging with legal recourses.

A petition similar to the one launched last week against SACAI was launched in 2022, where parents also claimed that the marks for the final exams did not reflect the work that the learners put in.

“Not only did the marks not reflect the students hard work, but the students also found that the 2021 papers were far more difficult than the set standard, and they as well as their parents feel as though the papers have been marked unfairly,” this earlier petition reads.

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