No report cards for learners as DBE fails to update software

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South African learners attending public schools will not be able to get report cards for the first term following software glitches on a system that is used by the Department of Education (DBE) to record learner performance, among other things.

The learners were supposed to receive their report cards today, the closing day of the first term of the calendar year.

Other learners’ last day of school for the term was yesterday, as most schools divided learners into two groups in order to ensure social distancing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The learners who closed yesterday are already at home without their report cards, leaving parents and guardians frustrated.

While the schools have faced several disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic since last year, they are now lamenting that they will not be able to release the reports after the DBE allegedly failed to update the South African School Administration Management System (SA-SAMS).

Said one Johannesburg primary school in a letter to parents: “The Education Information Management System (EIMS) has not been able to release the South African School Administration Management System Version 21.1.0 for the resulting and reporting of learner performance.

“According to Circular E7 of 2021, no report cards can, thus, be issued this term. Term one report cards will be released at the beginning of term two. This is a national problem affecting all schools using SA-SAMS.”

Term two is set to start on Monday, 3 May.

Another high school, also based in Johannesburg, communicated: “The DBE and GDE [Gauteng Education Department] result system called SA-SAMS has not been updated correctly yet, to take into account the trimmed curriculum and altered SBA [School-Based Assessment] requirements for 2021.

“The system calculates the marks by giving the various assessments in the various subjects different weightings. We are waiting for the patch to be sent to schools. Like all other government schools, we are obliged to use the system. This means that it will be impossible for reports to be issued on Friday, 23 April, as we had intended and planned to do.

“Please accept our apologies. The reports will be sent out as soon as possible. An SMS will notify you on the day that the reports are e-mailed to you.”

Singing another tune

ITWeb’s efforts to get a statement from DBE’s spokesperson, Elijah Mhlanga, were not successful, despite requests since Wednesday.

However, while the schools are saying the learners will not get the reports, the DBE is singing a different tune.

Yesterday, the department, on its Web site, issued a statement saying: “The Department of Basic Education has noted incorrect and misleading media reports saying that the latest version of the South African Administration and Management System has not been released.

“The release has, in fact, taken place and schools are currently using the system to prepare reports for learners as the first term comes to an end tomorrow.”

The correct information is that the department has made the software available to schools that are currently seized with the work of compiling learner records of performance, among other things, says the DBE.

According to the education department, the SA-SAMS version 21.1.1 has been released and it includes the 2021 curriculum settings.

“This release differs from previous years as it was developed in complete collaboration with relevant policy owners, which include curriculum and examination assessment.

“The change of methodology in releasing SA-SAMS version 21.1.1 originated from the demand of correct and up-to-date data that could be sourced using the SA-SAMS. Emanating from the revision of the annual teaching plans and programmes of assessment across all grades and the associated amendments to Section 4 of the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement, major amendments to the SA-SAMS programme were required for 2021.”

Aligning to education policies

SA-SAMS is computer software the DBE has to upgrade. It is provided for free by EIMS within the department.

The system is designed for the South African education sector and is maintained by the department, ensuring it is aligned to education policies.

According to the department, this aims to assist schools with their own data administration and reporting, and ensures standardised implementation and reporting across all provinces.

SA-SAMS is updated quarterly with requests received from users and various policy owners.

The department says changes are only included after being tabled at the National EIMS Technical Committee with membership from all EIMS provinces for recommendation.

It adds the new version is only released after being tested by EIMS sections as well as the policy owners. Changes on SA-SAMS are approved and signed off by EIMS in all provinces as well as the relevant policy owners.

Usage of SA-SAMS for reporting by schools as well as the data submitted is audited annually by the Auditor-General of SA as part of the audits of national systems.

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