Parktown Girls High found itself on the wrong side of the day’s headlines yet again after a portion of a Grade 10 English exam paper with an interesting question about the ongoing Gaza conflict leaked online.
Parktown Girls High responds to backlash over English exam paper
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Concerned parents and pupils took to social media to vent their frustrations with what they termed a concentrated effort to embolden conflict ideologies in children’s minds.
This contentious perspective culminated from a comprehension question on the Grade 10 English exam paper dated 7 November 2023, where pupils were asked to dissect an op-ed written by Toby Shapshak for Daily Maverick.
Shapshak’s opinion piece, titled The X We Choose to Bear as Fake Hamas-Israel News Explodes Across Twitter, leaned into the age of misinformation and the role the Elon Musk-owned social media platform is playing in proliferating fake news.
However, the general consensus online from people who saw a portion of the exam paper was that the question should not have made it to the final version of the test.
While the Department of Education has yet to address the backlash, Parktown Girls High School’s Headmistress Tracey Megom categorically denied any wrongdoing on her part and outrightly defended the exam question, marked and possibly coined by a Mrs S Williams.
“It is with great sadness and concern that I “It is with great sadness and concern that I read the comments going around on social media about the question in our grade 10 English Examination, which are baseless, inflammatory and designed to speak to a particular narrative,” Mrs Megom wrote.
The school’s headmistress made it clear “no one would intentionally go out to do anything to cause harm to any individual or group of learners or families.”
“Teaching critical thinking is neither easy nor comfortable, in many instances, but it is not something we can, or should, shy away from. As the leaders of tomorrow, our learners need the skills to be able to read, assimilate information, think critically and then engage,” she added.
This isn’t the first time Parktown Girls High has courted controversy that skirted racial lines. In 2016, the Pretoria school was the subject of an intense protest over its segregatory hair policy, which it has since abolished for a more inclusive alternative.
Mrs Megom, however, laid the blame on the recent backlash squarely on the media for trivialising and sensationalising “real issues, often at the expense of the victims.”
“The atrocities that are taking place in Gaza and the loss of human life is something that should sicken all of us, and this tragedy does not deserve to be overshadowed by fake news. I say it again: it is important that our learners are able to sift through this bombardment of fake news and understand the real issues; this is real education,” she stressed.
See the school’s full statement below: