The Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the Department of Health (DoH) made waves last week after reversing the stance on COVID-19-positive Matrics and allowing them to write their exams.

Previously students affected by the disease were deferred to the May/June 2021 exam season, but now they can write their papers under a certain set of special circumstances. These circumstances have now been released to the public by the DBE.

Included in a circular, which you can read here (or through the embed at the bottom of this page) the departments provide guidelines schools and examination venues can follow. A more fleshed out protocol document can also be found here.

It’s worth noting that this doesn’t just cover Matrics who have tested positive for COVID-19, it also covers those who have been exposed but have not been able to self-isolate for the appropriate amount of time – 10 days.

On top of this the guidelines also state that, “each case should be dealt with in an individualized manner,” so this isn’t a one size fits all solution for every school involved in exams right now.

With the 2020 Matric exams being the largest ever in South Africa with more than a million students, this wiggle room in the instructions are appreciated.

With so many students writing physical space has become a problem for examination venues. This is why social distancing was reduced from two metres to just one.

In terms of writing location for COVID-19-positive or exposed Matrics, the guidelines provide the following –

Candidates will write at an alternate venue and under secure conditions which comply with the examination regulations. The following should be noted: 

  • The alternate venue should ideally be well-ventilated and must allow for appropriate physical distancing. The venue should be cleaned daily in line with protocols outlined in Department of Basic Education Covid-19 protocols.
  • Compliance with physical distancing and non-pharmaceutical interventions such as wearing of masks. hand-washing and other hygiene practices is critical. Compliance must be ensured before, during and after the examination.
  • Invigilators should comply with all non-pharmaceutical interventions, and should be provided with medical masks.
  • The Department of Education remains responsible for conducting and overseeing examinations and will provide guidance regarding the collection and management of examination papers.

With Matric exams ongoing right now until 15th December, it remains to be seen if these guidelines will be successful when it comes to keeping students and invigilators safe.