Matric exam panic in the attic

skawara-matric-packs_20120817The first large project that I participated in at Paperight was the sourcing and collation of matric exam packs, under Tarryn’s guidance.

The plan was to bring together every matric exam paper, memo and addendum from 2008 to the present (then, 2012) into one, easy-to-access resource for matrics. This resource would make Paperight attractive to potential copyshop partnershops, and would give us a reason to approach schools. Seeing as the papers were in the public domain, our idea was to make them free to print, so anyone could make use of the service. This would also make Paperight extremely attractive to copy shops as they wouldn’t need to shell out any money for credits up-front, and could get familiar with the system over time.

government education websites and resources had (and probably still have) a lot of dead or wrong links, and nobody in the Department of Basic Education were able to supply us with the missing exams

Initially, Tarryn and I (and, previous to my arrival, our previous intern and my friend Michal Blaszczyk) trawled the internet – especially the websites of the different provincial Departments of Education – looking for all the papers we needed. In the end, however, we found we had over 100 documents outstanding between us. In essence, government education websites and resources had (and probably still have) a lot of dead or wrong links, and nobody in the Department of Basic Education were able to supply us with the missing exams.

In a fit of desperation a few weeks into the collation process – and while Tarryn and Arthur were both overseas and I was left to man the office alone – I drove to the Western Cape Department of Education at the Grand Parade, snuck into the building, and stalked the halls asking people if they might be able to give me all the past papers for all the subjects “for my little sister”. After being chased out of rooms and down depressingly-lit and security-barred corridors, I eventually managed to find a man who would take my flash stick through a security gate to his computer to give me the exams. Unfortunately, it turned out, even his selection of exams were incomplete and thus completely useless for us.

Some weeks later, after much swearing and complaining about the state of government websites and systems, we caved in and bought disks from EduMedia, the WC DoE’s multimedia arm, at their Mowbray offices. These too weren’t comprehensive, but they filled in enough gaps for us to be able to go ahead with our planned claim that we had the most comprehensive collection of past matric exam papers and memoranda available for free in South Africa – an extremely helpful PR hook.

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