The Department of Basic Education (DBE) has announced that Matric learners who test positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) will still be allowed to write their exams.

This is an abrupt change from the department who recently stated that those students who had contracted the disease would instead have to stay home and instead write their papers in May/June 2021.

The DBE as well as the Department of Health have now agreed to a new paradigm after receiving feedback from learners and their parents.

“It was agreed that candidates who test positive, and deemed fit to write the examination, will be allowed to write albeit at a different venue and under secure conditions that are in compliance with the examination regulations. The Departments will work jointly to ensure that candidates who have been confirmed to be positive are given an opportunity to sit for the exams while ensuring that safety is observed,” the DBE writes in an announcement.

Changes to health and safety measures around the Matric exams have been sweeping and issued regularly. Changes such as social distancing being reduced from two metres to one, as well as the allowance for students with a temperature over 38 degrees Celsius have been announced in the past few days.

“It also needs to be noted that learners who are screened at the entrance of the examination venue and display a temperature higher than 38°C will be allowed to write the examination in an isolation venue at the school. These learners will be immediately taken to the isolation venue and after the examination they will not be allowed to socialise with other learners, but will be taken to a health centre for further medical attention,” the DBE adds.

The 2020 matric exam seasons starts today and will continue until 15th December. Results from these exams will be released next year on 22nd January.

We will need to wait for 2021 to see how Matrics have been able to perform during a pandemic, but we have to imagine that all of this will weigh heavily on them and reflect negatively in the marks. We’re also willing to bet that students who write while ill will be far from performing to the best of their abilities.