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Matric results to go public, High Court judge rules

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The Pretoria High Court has ruled the 2021 National Senior Certificate (NSC) results must be published on all media platforms.

This, after the matter was brought before the court by lobby group AfriForum, Maroela Media and Anlé Spies, a 2021 matriculant.

Last week, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) announced matric exam results will no longer be published on any media public platforms, citing the requirements of the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) as the reason for its decision.

The DBE said the new rule was introduced to respect the right to privacy to protect against unlawful collection, retention, dissemination and use of personal information belonging to school pupils.

However, the department’s decision was met with mixed reaction from the public, including the urgent court application.

Newzroom Afrika reported today that High Court judge Anthony Millar ordered the matric results be publishedvia various media platforms without the first names and surnames of the learners, noting that only exam numbers should be publicised.

According to the news channel, Millar’s ruling is based on the fact that not everyone has access to the internet. In addition, some learners are no longer living in the area where their high school is based and might not be able to access their results timeously.

In a statement following the Pretoria High Court ruling, the DBE says it will abide by the ruling.

“This means the department will make available the results to stakeholders who requested access. The conditions of the court ruling must be taken into account in line with the provisions of the Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013,” it says.

“In addition to accessing the results from media platforms, the department also urges candidates to register on the website to view the results when they become available. Candidates will have to go through a two-step verification process before receiving confirmation of their registration. A 13-digit ID number and the examination number will be required for registration.”

The Information Regulator, which is charged with overseeing SA’s data privacy law POPIA, has expressed that the DBE has a legitimate reason for publishing matric results in the media in order to make those results accessible.

However, if the results are to be published, the department must ensure it complies with POPIA. The media platforms must also ensure they comply with the Act.

Speaking on SABC’s SAfm, Information Regulator chairperson advocate Pansy Tlakula explained: “This requires training in advance; it’s not something that they can do two weeks before publishing those results. For instance, the planning will require them to decide which personal information they share with the media – is it necessary to share ID numbers of learners with the media that, in my view, constitutes over-processing of personal information.

“If they want to disseminate the results through media platforms, they must inform all the learners and all the parents of their intention to make matric results available in various media platforms. They must inform them on which media platforms those results will be made available and how the results can be accessed.

“In addition, the department must also give the learners and the parents the right to object to the publication of their results in the media and the objections should be considered before publishing the results.”

The DBE is expected to release the 2021 NSC examination results on 21 January.

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