A top school is under investigation after opening the wrong pack of matric examination question papers last week.
The incident happened Wednesday morning at SACS High School in Newlands - one of the oldest and most prestigious schools in South Africa.
According to the Employment of Educators Act, the chief invigilator may be relieved of the job and the principal found guilty of negligence or dereliction of duty if the people involved are found to not have followed the correct procedure in the incident, says Brian Schreuder, head of education planning and development in the Western Cape Education Department (WCED).
It was discovered that the incorrect question papers, which were supposed to have been written the next day, were opened by the invigilators at the school as they prepared to hand question papers out to the learners. The question papers were immediately sealed again, Schreuder said.
Matric exam papers are kept in a safe before the examinations commence. On examination day and before being handed out to the learners, the papers are taken out by three people - the school principal, the subject teacher and the invigilator - to ensure everything is correct.
Each of the three present has to sign for the papers, says David de Korte, vice chairperson of the South African Principals' Association in the Western Cape and headmaster of Camps Bay High School. This is standard procedure.
"Sometimes these horrible things do happen. Everyone makes mistakes; no-one is perfect. I believe that no-one would open it with intention," he said.
According to Schreuder, the principal, chief invigilator and subject teacher are responsible for comparing the session number, date, and exact commencement time with the large label on the outside of the sealed plastic bags, which contain a second set of sealed plastic bags with the question papers. Each person signs a form certifying that it is the correct paper when the bags are opened.
When the question papers are handed out, no learner may page through the paper, but must check that the correct subject, grade and paper is indicated on the cover of the set they receive.
"Any error can, even at this late stage, be picked up and papers collected without the exam being compromised," Schreuder added.
He also confirmed that none of the question papers had been given to learners and the correct papers were handed out.
An investigation by the WCED is under way and a report will be released at a later stage, said Gert Witbooi, spokesperson for the WCED. SACS High School did not wish to comment.