FS geared for matric exams


Approximately 4,000 Free State Computer Application Studies (CAT) learners started with their practical National Senior Certificate (NSC) exams on Monday. Learners sat for practical CAT, Paper 1, while others did their practical Information Technology (IT) Paper 1 on Tuesday.
Most learners will officially start their examinations next Monday with English Paper 1. Approximately 35,385 learners in the province will sit down for the exams out of the total 801,688 learners countrywide. Of the total 674,232 are full-time candidates and 127,456 part-time. 
The National Department of Basic Education earlier declared a state of readiness for the NSC exams. The department declared itself ready for administering the 2015 NSC examinations.
"All centres have been audited. Chief invigilators and floor-walkers have been trained. Monitors have been appointed to monitor our exams. Adequate security measures are also in place to secure exam material." This according to provincial spokesperson, Howard Ndaba.
He further told Courant that the province is aiming for a 90% pass rate and a 40% bachelor's pass rate this year; a result he is confident can be achieved. He urged learners to be calm, work hard and make the province proud as they have reached the final stage after twelve years of hard work and dedication. 
The Free State was the top province in 2013, with a pass rate of 87.4%. The figure dropped to 82.8% in 2014.
Although the Department of Basic Education declared itself ready to manage the matriculation exams, there have been challenges.
Deputy Director General, Motseki Monnane, earlier told a select committee for education and recreation in Bloemfontein the department experienced a shortfall of R12.6 million. He said extra money is needed to pay schools used as marking centres and the transport costs of markers. According to him the department had already spent 50% of the allocated budget of R36 million by the end of last month.
While the department will look for an increase in the pass rate this year, the next few weeks will be a stressful time; not only for learners but also for parents across the province.
Clinical psychologist, Sydney Cooper, motivated parents to play a positive role, create an environment where matriculants can relax in and be supportive. 
"The main thing here is that their mindset should be right. They need to organise and plan their studies but they should have fun at the same time. When they work, they need to work hard, but they should also take time to relax," said Cooper.
A Grade 12 learner at the Sentraal High School in Bloemfontein, Arno Combrinck, emphasised that this is the last chapter of a very long road. "The first exam paper went well. I think it was of a good standard. We've worked through a lot of question papers. This is our chance to shine; we just have to make the best of it," he said.
A fellow matriculant, Nadia Meiring, felt everything has been done to ensure the matrics are adequately prepared. "I feel the September and July examinations prepared us well. It is very important to stay positive. Read thrice, think twice, write once and just stay positive," she said.
The Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools CEO, Fred Deacon, emphasised that the next few weeks will be an important time for learners. He urged parents and the community to create a sufficient environment for learners to write and study.
"We have faith in the country's examination system. We hope that the upcoming exams will be conducted with the necessary responsibility and care. We also hope that the upcoming exams will be a true reflection of the quality of teaching in the country.
All Grade 12 learners in the province will sign a pledge where they commit that they will abide to the rules pertaining to the conduct of examinations.
The exams will conclude on 27 November. – Mark Steenbok