Matric exam papers get hi-tech lockdown

The Western Cape department of education is forging ahead with a technological innovation to track matric exam papers in a bid to minimise security breaches.

Last year the department piloted the technology, called the Smart Locking Logic System, at a few schools, according to acting head of department Brian Schreuder.

This year the programme has been expanded to 93 schools in two districts.

Schreuder said schools were SMSed a code for invigilators to open sealed bundles of papers.

Should anyone open the package before the time, it alerts the department.

This, Schreuder said, is one of the ways to prevent question papers from being leaked.

Schreuder was part of a delegation of departmental officials, including MEC Debbie Schafer, who took the media to a high-security vault where the papers are in storage.

The vault is being monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Another safety measure involves issuing all matric pupils with bar-coded stickers to paste on their exam scripts. This will help track the papers too.

"It is the intention of the [department] to ensure that the examination process is equal and fair, therefore strict security arrangements are necessary to ensure the integrity of the examinations," said Schafer. All workers who went into the vault are screened by the department before they are allowed to work there, she said.

"I am certainly impressed with the arrangements that have been put in place. This is a huge logistical exercise that requires careful planning and tight management," she said.

National Department of Basic Education spokesman Elijah Mhlanga said his department could not comment on safety measures but is ready for the exams.

"We can say though that each year we improve the security measures to ensure that we protect the profile and integrity of the examinations," he said.

Mhlanga said the department would be printing 10-million exam question papers.