Answer to a question from a reader

Can I, a non-South African, write my matric exams if I only have a valid passport?

The short answer

Yes, you can write your matric exams and get your results with a valid passport.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

In 2021, GroundUp wrote a response to a reader's question on whether non-South Africans can write matric exams. The article said that matriculants can write their exams as long as they have valid proof of identity. Has this changed since then? Can I write my exams and get my results if I have a valid passport? 

The long answer

The short answer is yes, your passport is good enough to enable you to write your matric and receive results, and no, nothing has changed since 2021 regarding that.

An article in the Daily Maverick on 15 January 2023 by Jos Venter confirms amongst other things that, “The right to basic education of every learner in South Africa is entrenched in section 29(1)(a) of the Constitution … The Constitutional Court affirmed in 2011 that the right to basic education is unqualified and immediately realisable in nature. This means that every learner within the confines of the country enjoys an entitlement to this unfettered right and that obstacles which unjustifiably limit or hinder its immediate enjoyment must be removed. 

“South Africa’s rich education jurisprudence that has developed since the (2011) Juma Musjid judgment informs us that this right must be enjoyed by every learner free from discrimination and on equal footing, regardless of race, language, religion, disability and status.”

Remember that the Constitutional rights in sections 28(2) (concerning the best interests of the child) and 29(1) (rights to basic education) apply to every child in South Africa.

Remember too the 2019 landmark judgment by Judge Selby Mbenenge, who interdicted the Eastern Cape Education Department from requiring children to have IDs and birth certificates before they could be admitted to school and write exams. Judge Mbenenge said the Constitution protected the right of all children to basic education and that no child should be excluded from education. Where a pupil could not provide a birth certificate, the court ordered school principals to accept alternate proofs of identity such as an affidavit or sworn statement by the parent, caregiver or guardian. This meant that in 2019 more than 13,000 undocumented students were able to write their matric.

That still applies. 

In 2020 the body that issues the matric certificates, Umalusi, said that learners without documentation are issued matric certificates using the learner’s date of birth. The spokesperson, Lucky Ditaunyane said that this matric certificate was as good as those with an ID.

A problem you may face later is that universities and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) do require an ID for applications. But for matric, you can certainly write and get results using your passport.

The information below comes from Matric College

"You can check out your Matric results online through the Department of Basic Education (DBE) website this way: 

  1. Visit the website of the Department of Basic Education (DBE);

  2. From the menu, click “Exam results”;

  3. Click on the NSC exam results button; 

  4. Your exam number will be needed;

  5. In case more information is needed, please provide it;

  6. To begin searching, click the search button;

  7. As soon as the results are available, you will see them.


Below are the steps to follow to get your Matric Results on your phone via SMS.

  • Open the SMS menu on your mobile device;

  • Type in your exam number and date of birth in the format: yyyy/mm/dd;

  • Send an SMS to the code: 35135 (Note that the SMS code is subject to change);

  • You will receive confirmation that your registration has been approved;

  • Your Matric results will be sent to you as soon as they are available.

If you should encounter problems from school authorities, you could contact one of the following organisations for help:

Legal Resources Centre: Email: Tel: Cape Town: 021 481 3000 Tel: Johannesburg: 011 836 9831

Lawyers for Human Rights: Email: Tel: Cape Town: 021 424 8561 Tel Johannesburg Office and law clinic: 011 339 1960

Wishing you the best,

Answered on Jan. 24, 2023, 9:47 a.m.

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