Department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said hearings have been completed in 50% of implicated centres in the Eastern Cape and were continuing in KZN.
“It is expected the hearings will be finalised by the end of this month and the investigating team will then be able to report on their findings and a decision regarding those implicated can be taken,” said Mhlanga.
Mhlanga said the department had no intention of indefinitely preventing implicated pupils from completing their schooling.
“We want these learners to go on to have a bright future,” he said.
He said examination regulations stipulated that those found guilty of cheating in the National Senior Certificate examinations could be excluded from writing the examinations for a period of three years.
“We are, however, aware that even one year is a long period of time in the life of a child and while we want to teach these learners a valuable lesson and create a strong deterrent from future participation in such behaviour, we will also be sympathetic in our approach to the [pupils],” he said.
Despite the incidents, exam quality assurer Umalusi said the 2014 matric exams were “fair and credible”.
The education department also condemned attacks on officials investigating the group copying allegations, saying in at least three centres where the hearings were scheduled, pupils engaged in violent protests and cars were damaged.
Mhlanga said criminal cases had been opened and “those who damaged cars and property will be dealt with in terms of the law”.