Health Department must step up to assist Matrics writing exams

Issued by Yusuf Cassim, MPL
Shadow MEC for Education

The Department of Health must step up and assist schools where matriculants have started writing examinations, to help providing isolation areas and invigilation for learners to write exams who might be carrying the virus.

The Democratic Alliance has noted that, despite matric exams starting today, the Health Department is nowhere to be seen, even though they were mandated to provide the necessary assistance.

Not only are learners scared of catching the virus, but they are also terrified that if they catch it, they wont be able to write their Matric. This could have a huge impact on their futures.

They could lose an entire year, missing opportunities to go on to university for example, if they have to wait to write supplementary exams next year.

It is therefore urgent that the Department of Health and Education work together to safeguard the futures of these young people who might test positive for covid-19.

The chaotic situation stems from the Education Department changing their policy stance relating to learners that either test positive for Covid-19 during their exams, or who fail the screening protocols at venues, at the very last minute.

I have been lobbying the Education Department for weeks to reconsider their stance relating to matriculants that either test positive for Covid-19 during their exams, or who fail the screening protocols at venues.

Up until yesterday, the stance has been that any matriculant who tests positive or fails screening, would be deemed to be absent with permission from the exam, and would then be allowed to write the respective exams during the supplementary sitting, in the middle of next year.

This is extremely unfair on learners, who have already had their last school year severely disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent enforced lockdown measures.

Yesterday, the National Department of Education changed their stance, and have now agreed that these learners should be allowed to write their exams, in isolation, and that the Department of Health must assist to facilitate this.

While the decision is welcomed, it is now a matter of urgency to get the Department of Health onboard to assist schools, as teachers do not necessarily have the competencies to do so. If the necessary protocols and procedures are not followed, there could be dire consequences of the Covid-19 virus spreading throughout the school.

I will be requesting my colleague in the provincial legislature, the DA’s Shadow MEC for Health, Jane Cowley, to take this matter up with the Health Department, to rectify this urgently.

We need to be creating a safe schooling environment that ensures every learner the opportunity to reach their full potential. This includes providing safe alternative writing venues for those who have failed their screening, or who have tested positive for the Covid-19 virus.

Note to Editors: You can download a soundclip in English from Yusuf Cassim, MPL