2020 School Readiness & 2019 Matric Examination Outcome; Report on Griqua People’s Heritage Submission; Residents of Dryharts Village Petition with Deputy Minister

Basic Education

11 February 2020
Chairperson: Ms B Mbinqo-Gigaba (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The meeting opened with a presentation from the Dryharts community in the North West Province, which had requested the reopening of the Molehabangwe middle school as a primary school. They pointed out that overcrowding was a worrying issue at the current schools, and another school was needed because the Dryharts settlement had grown significantly ever since Molehabangwe had been closed. They presented a petition signed by the community, stating that they would like to have Molehabamgwe reopened as a primary school, as the current school was far from some pupils who faced risks travelling long distances, because there was no scholar transport system in place. The Department of Basic Education indicated it would reopen the school in 2021.

UMALUSI, whose role is to develop an education framework and manage the standard of qualifications for general and further education and training, presented its review of the 2019 examination process, stating that it was fair and credible, with relatively low irregularities compared to previous years. The entity stated that its mandate was to ensure the standardisation of the system and moderate the National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations. It submitted that 134 examination question papers had been moderated and security systems had been improved. There was now continuous monitoring of assessments and the entity was using data from previous years to shape a clear path for the future.

The Committer asked UMALUSI why there were provinces which had started marking their exam papers earlier than others, and questioned whether it might compromise the integrity of the system.

They were asked what their plan was with regards to the General Education Certificate (GEC) given in Grade 9, and how that would affect the future of the NSC.

The Department of Basic Education made its presentation on the outcomes of the 2019 NSC examinations, stating that 616 000 learners had enrolled to write the examination, and 504 000 had actually written.  It discussed the benefits of its strategy to aid learners who kept repeating subjects, stating that no pupil would have to repeat a subject many times, but would rather be progressed into the next grade upon their second attempt. Progressed learners were found to be handling Matric better and passing, showing that the system worked. It was looking into terminating Multiple Exam Opportunity (MEO) examinations, because they were being abused by the schools.

The Committee wanted to know about the nutrition plans established at schools, and the availability of school transport for the underprivileged. Members expressed concern about the lack of improvement in the marks for mathematics, which still averaged around 50%.


Meeting report

The Chairperson opened the meeting with welcoming remarks to the Members and all the entities present and presenting on the day – Dr Makgabo Mhaule, Deputy Minister of Basic Education, the North West Department of Education, UMALUSI and the representatives from the Dryharts municipality. She said some Members had suggested that it would be better to have the meeting after the State of the Nation Address (SONA), as by then there would be an opportunity for the discussions in the meeting to be aligned with the President’s statements. However, this could not be the case because the meeting had to happen before the SONA.

She gave the platform to Dr Mhaule to give a foreword prior to the presentation from Dryharts.

Dr Mhaule said that the Department of Basic Education (DBE) had indeed received a signed petition sent by the community of Dryharts (Petition 102 of 2019) from the Office of the Speaker, and had engaged with the Dryharts community. The Head of Department (HOD) of the North West Department of Education would touch on the matter after the presentation from the Dryharts representative.
Re-Opening of a School in Dryharts

Mr Charles Mvula, an educator and former Principal of Molehabangwe Middle School from Dryharts Village, introduced himself and Mr Lekoko Mahura, a representative of the Dryharts community, to the meeting. He said that the school had been built after Corobrik had donated bricks to the late chief, MJ Mahura. The chief had given the donated the bricks for the building of a school, and four classes had been built at the time.  The reopening of the school was essential for preserving the legacy of the chief.

He had come from a hard beginning, working like a slave, so that he could today live like a king. This was the message he preached to his pupils so that they may value education, emphasising that education could be bitter, but its fruits were sweet.
The now closed-down school was now turning into a haven for criminal activities. The reopening of the school would help in reducing the crimes associated with the unused building. Women could be kidnapped and abused within the confines of the unused buildings.

He emphasised that there was a rapid population growth in Dryharts, and the community needed a school in the nearby surroundings so that the pupils did not have to walk long distances to school. The safety of the pupils was a prime concern that needed to be dealt with. A structure already existed which was the closed school, and it only needed renovations. He gave an example of Leticia Jansen, who was abducted, abused and murdered due to the lack of a transportation system when schools were found to be far from the villages.

Mr Mvula said that the overcrowding at the two schools currently running in Dryharts was becoming a concern, given that the Dryharts population had seen significant increases, creating the need for another school. The current schools were overcrowded, and the teaching team was under stuffed.

The Chairperson asked Mr Mvula to summarise his presentation due to time constraints.

Mr Mvula concluded that the re-opening of the school would open up job opportunities, such as administrative clerks, cleaners, teachers and so on. The school would ensure that the pupils attended a school within a distance range closer to their homes.

Deputy Minister Mhaule welcomed the presentation, and advised the Committee that the matter was being discussed, as there were factors that affected the reopening of the school. With regard to the distance travelled by the scholars, she said that there was a minimum walking distance policy of three kilometres which the DBEused to determine if a scholar transportation system was required for scholars attending the school.

The existing building of the closed school did not necessarily have to be re-opened as a school, as the community could use it for other establishments, such as a clinic. The Department had observed that the settlement in Dryharts was growing, but that did not automatically translate to the need for a new school. She emphasised that the re-opening of the school was not going to create new teaching jobs, as the teachers and pupils from the other two schools would divide themselves into a group, using the reopened school as their teaching facility.

She emphasised that she was not saying the school would not be re-opened, but was merely stating that there were dynamic factors associated with reopening a school in any community.

She asked Ms Stephinah Semaswe, Head of Department: DBE, North West, to elaborate further on the matter.

The HOD said that the Department had received a request from the Chief of the Batlhaping (Kgosi Ya Batlhaping) in Dryharts around June 2019 to reopen school. The Department officials had gone to the closed Molehabangwe school to evaluate it. It had also profiled the three schools in the Dryharts area -- two primary schools and one high school -- which all came after a process of rationalisation.

The process of rationalisation was started in 2012, which led to the closing down of small and non-viable schools in order to ensure that a quality education system could be implemented. Dryharts had two middle schools, Molehabangwe and Mahura Sekate.

The document that was gazetted and adopted before the Committee in 2007 had aimed at dealing with the schooling landscapes, and had outlined that there should be two types of schools, primary and secondary. There used to be a lot of categories of schools in the then Bophuthatswana region -- inter-mediary schools, preparatory schools, primary schools and so on. The rationalisation process sought to do away with the many categories of schools and work with only two, primary and high schools.

Due to the process of rationalisation and the evaluation of learner numbers, the Department had found it rational to close the Molehabangwe School and merge Maura Sekate with the existing Molejane in order to form one high school, which was Molejane High School. There was then was no problem with the learner numbers between the Molejane High School and the Molemoeng Primary school in the area, and hence no need to have an additional school.

The new profiling of schools showed that with the new learner numbers, it was feasible to open another primary school, so the Department welcomed the Chief’s request for the school to be reopened.
However, the school could not be re-opened in 2020, as it still required renovation and refurbishing to make the environment conducive to learning.

She highlighted that there were not going to be any new posts for teaching staff as the teachers would be moving from their current school with some of their pupils to the reopened Molehabangwe, which would be reopened as a primary school.

In conclusion, she said that the Department was considering re-opening the school for the 2021 year, and would be engaging with the Dryharts Committee further to achieve this goal. 


Ms N Adoons (ANC) said the communication system with the DBEE and community was not effective and needed to be enhanced because, there had been no need for the matter to reach the Committee. She requested the submission of a progress report to ensure that the community was getting what it requested.

Dr S Thembekwayo (EFF) said that she was happy that the Department was attending to the matter of reopening the school. She agreed there was a lack of clear and open communication between the community and the Department, because this matter was not supposed to have reached the Committee.
She asked why the school was not being opened immediately after renovations, because the facility was already there, and emphasised that the pupils travelling to the farther schools were still at risk in the meantime, since there was no scholar transport system for the learners.

Ms D van der Walt (DA) thanked Mr Mahura for investing in the building of the school. She was happy that the Department was on its way to reopening the school in 2021, and said that all the necessary resources such as water and Sanitation needed to be in place.

Mr T Malatji (ANC) applauded the North West Department of Education for engaging with the community on the matter, highlighting that there was an issue of overcrowding in the current schools of Dryharts, and the addition of a primary school would help. He requested the Department to start with renovations of the school. He applauded the community for being proactive and taking the initiative in ensuring that the school got re-opened.

Deputy Minister Mhaule promised that the Department would submit a follow up report about the progress at the school. She appreciated that the community of Dryharts had not gone on strike or engaged in violent activity, but had rather chosen to address the matter via the hierarchy of the government. She promised that the Department would improve on communication with the community, and the stakeholders would be informed of the progress.

She said it would be impossible to reopen the school in 2020 since it was still in need of renovations and other administrative processes such as staffing, school nutrition, budget etc.

The Chairperson informed Dr Mhaule that the petition was from 2019, and it had been highly responsive for the Department to promise that the school was going to be opened in 2021. She was certain that the representatives of the Dryharts community were happy.

Mr Mvula asked for an opportunity to demystify the statement that the Department was highly responsive, arguing that it was rather that the Department had given the community representatives poor replies, which had led to the community escalating the matter to the Committee.

The Chairperson asked Mr Mvula to accept that the Department was going to work with the community and ensure that the school was re-built.

November National Senior Certificate: UMALASI briefing

Deputy Minister Mhaule, leading the delegation of UMALUSI and the DBE, introduced the UMALUSI Chairperson, Prof John Volmink, and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr Mafu Rakometsi.

Prof Volmink said he was pleased to inform the Committee that UMALUSI had maintained its quality assurance system as oversight. It had approved the results for the 2019 national examinations, which were free from system irregularities that could have comprised the examination. The overall conduct of the examinations in 2019 had been fair and credible, since the system had improved remarkably over the years.

Dr Rakometsi described the UMALUSI mandate and regulatory framework, which was derived from the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Act 57 of 2008, sections 27h and 27i. He quoted from section 17a, stating that the council may adjust raw marks during the standardisation process and, in consultation with the Director General, could approve the publication of results if it was satisfied.

Regarding the framework for the quality assurance of assessments, he said that the entity ensured that certificates offered by UMALUSI were credible. This was achieved by the moderation of examinations question papers, practical assessment tasks, common assessment tasks, school-based assessments, the marking process, the standardisation of assessment outcomes and approval of the release of results.

He said the DBE, the Independent Examination Board (IEB) and the South African Comprehensive
Assessment Institute (SCAI), were administering the National Senior Certificate (NSC), and UMALUSI remained the only issuer of the certificates. The DBE was the largest of these bodies.

Ms Mary-Louise Madalane, Senior Manager: Evaluation and Accreditation, UMALUSI, gave an overview of the 2019 quality assurance, and said that 134 question papers had been moderated for the DBE, and 15 school-based assessment (SBA) subjects were chosen for the moderation of the DBE. UMALUSI had performed a state of readiness check to ensure that all the provinces were ready to conduct the examinations. 311 examination centres and 18 marking centres had been monitored.
35 subjects had been sampled for the verification of marking. The DBE had presented a total of 67 subjects. 132 marking guideline standardisation meetings were attended, during which the standard marking system was introduced and approved.
She said that the provincial departments reported to UMALUSI on a day-to-day basis during the examination process and submitted a quality assurance report. 134 questions were moderated, and there were improvements in the 2019 question papers. UMALUSI gave directives as to the areas that needed improvement in order to maintain a good standard of the question papers.

Several subjects had been selected for oral moderation, starting from 2019. The Free State, Gauteng, Northern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), Limpopo and North West were moderated for practical assessment tasks. She commended the Limpopo province for improving their practical assessment task. 
More directives had been issued for the Department to tend to.

UMALUSI ensured that the markers of the question papers were the right people, and had been assessed for their marking skills. The credibility of the people selected to mark the papers had been verified across the provinces and the challenges faced had been reported to the provincial education departments (PEDs) so that the challenges could be tacked before the marking process.

She said that a state of readiness process had been executed to ensure that all the provinces were well prepared for the exams. The Department was still having a problem taking care of concessions, although there had been an improvement in the security system during the exam process. A double-lock system was being used to ensure the integrity of the question papers.

She had requested the PEDs to assist with the shortage of staff, since there were not enough markers across the provinces. UMALUSI had issued a directive for the issuing of transport for the markers, as some of them often resided far from the marking centres.

The Life Orientation subject was of concern, since its examination was written during the year and there was a need for its exam to be better monitored, since its mark formed part of the final exam.

She requested that exam venues should have backup plans for power outages, as some exams had been affected by this phenomenon.

One of the new irregularities was found in the assessment of marking centres, which needed to be monitored more regularly. It was also found that marking centres where computer-based assessments were made, had alternative plans for power outages.

She suggested that the people who were to participate in the improvement of the marking guidelines should at least be given the opportunity to mark the question paper beforehand so that they could make meaningful contributions to the marking guidelines.

She said South African Sign Language (SASL) marking required the presence of interpreters on site during the marking process. Gauteng and Limpopo had started marking before the other PEDs, and this could have been a disadvantage because they then did not get the benefit from any new information that might emanate from the marking guideline sessions.

Dr Rakometsi spoke about the standardisation of results, which was done to ensure that learners were not disadvantaged or advantaged in any manner during their exam, and that everyone wrote to the same standard. The standardisation was based on four main principles:

No adjustment should exceed 10% of the historical average, either above or below;
If the distribution of raw marks was below average, the adjustment should not exceed half of the raw mark that was obtained by the candidate;
Standardisation should not affect the rank order of the candidates, as acquired from the raw marks.
After considering qualitative and quantitative reports, UMALASi formulates positions on each subject – either accept the raw marks, adjust upward, or adjust downward.

Standardisation started when the examiners were appointed and did not happen in only December. From the monitoring of the exam process to the marking process, all were standardised processes.

Initially, 58 subjects had been standardised, and it had now increased to 67. The preference of UMALUSI was to first consider the raw marks of the candidates before any adjustments could be made. He highlighted that English registered as the easiest language subject.

He emphasised that sign language (home language) needed more attention, as various dialects caused problems during standardisation, and the language needed to be standardised. Early exposure of learners to the subject was important.

There had been a decrease in the number of learners doing mathematics, and there was little improvement in the subject, despite the interventions that had been made. The DBE needed to focus on utilising concessions for learners to be given extra time, and so on.

Dr Rakometsi said that an analysis needed to be done to see which section of which subjects the learners were struggling with. He recommended that interventions needed to be set in place to aid the learners to achieve good marks. The assessment and examination data needed to be used to improve teaching and learning and ensure that learners had a better opportunity to pass the exams.

The results of candidates who were implicated in irregularities had had their results blocked, pending investigation by the DBE, after which the results would be approved by UMALUSI. The examination centres that were not accredited were also blocked.

He said any departmental improvement plans from the departments had to be submitted to UMALUSI by 14 February 2020.

National Senior Certificate Examinations outcomes

Mr Paddy Padayachee, Deputy Director-General: Planning and Assessment (DBE) said that the system had over 24 000 schools with over 13 million learners, which was the Department’s major responsibility. It was focusing on school-based assessments in order to improve teaching and learning.

There were 667 000 who had enrolled for the NSC in 2016, and the system had now normalised at 600 000. The DBE had a new policy on progression, stating that no learner must spend more than two years in one grade, which applied to learners between grades 10 and 11. The number of progressed learners had thus increased due to the policy; with Kwa Zulu Natal and Limpopo experiencing a decrease of about 3 000 enrolments each.

For the 2019 examination year, 616 000 had enrolled to write the examination, and 504 000 had actually written. 88 000 candidates had chosen to use the multiple examination opportunity (MEO) route, which allowed them to write three subjects. 23 000 of the candidates had been absent from at least one of their exams. He clarified that candidates who were classified as not having written were those who did not write the full six subjects plus Life Orientation, but could have written a lesser number of subjects.

There had been a higher enrolment of female learners as opposed to male. An improvement in the system was required to ensure that more learners with special needs got to enrol.
He said that 60% of learners were getting to grade 12 before the age of 20. The DBE needed to ensure that the learners who were over the age of 25 had to be directed to alternative teaching institutions to ensure they did not stay in a class with 17-year-olds.

There were 100 000 active social grant recipients, and the Department was working towards ensuring that the candidates who were over the age of 18 but were still schooling, could keep their social grant for as long as they were schooling. Inactive social grant recipients would have reached the age of 18 by the time they reached Grade 12, and there were 364 000 learners who were classified as inactive grant recipients.

The policy on MEO had been terminated because it was being abused by the schools, although it was designed to help progressed learners to write their six exams over a two-year period, given that they were struggling in their previous schooling years.

Over a 12-year period, the system had moved from 62% to a record 81% pass rate, and the Minister needed to be applauded for this. 34 000 progressed learners had written all six exam subjects, and 23 000 of them had attained a Matric certificate, giving a performance of 68.1%. Therefore, there were now 23 000 students who should have been in Grade 11, but they had been helped to pass Matric.

Of the 400 000 learners who passed, over 300 000 qualified for either a diploma or degree. There was an improvement on the results generally across of all provinces, and this was something to be proud of.

Mr Payadachee said 55.4% of learners came from Quintile 3 and 4 schools, which showed the impact that this system had had on helping learners who were from poverty backgrounds.

The Western Cape had the highest pass rate in mathematics, although the Eastern Cape had registered the highest participation in the subject.

The Department was monitoring the throughput rate (the rate of learners entering grade 10 as opposed to those leaving in grade 12) of all the provinces. It was observing the per provincial, per district and per school performance, and ensuring that they aimed for positive gains in their overall performances.
In 2018, 11 districts had been performing below 70%, as opposed to only six in the 2019 year, which was a significant improvement in the system.

Subjects that showed no improvements were being given special attention. Mathematics, in particular, was not improving, remaining stable at a 50% pass rate. The DBE was organising a Maths Indaba to further discuss methods of improving the subject.

In terms of age analysis, the 16 years olds were achieving a 90% success rate, while older ages were getting lower ratings. This indicated that it was not wise to keep learners longer in school in the hope that their performance would increase.

He said that there were 95 000 active grant recipients who had written, of whom 79 000 had passed. There were 355 000 inactive grant recipients, and only 59% passed, supporting the motivation for keeping the social grant for as long as the learner was still at school.

There were 202 who had written from prison, with 133 obtaining their Matric.

Mr Padayachee said the DBE was achieving better quality over the years, and would be looking into making the system even more efficient.  The DBE was a ‘system on the rise’, and it was planning to shape a path for those learners who passed Matric but could not make it to university.


Mr P Moroatshehla (ANC) welcomed the report, saying the DBE deserved applause for the presented improvements in the system. He pleaded with the DBE to research the issue of poor performance in mathematics and its related subjects, such as physics.

He said the issue of learner transport was the responsibility of the DBE, and emphasised that learners who did not have transport often ended up making other plans which imposed risks on their lives.

Ms N Shabalala (ANC) said that credit needed to be given where it was due, and she was excited about the reports presented on the day. She urged the DBE and UMALUSI to keep up the good work.

Dr Thembekwayo asked where one would direct post-examination queries these to. There were learners who had been performing well from grade 10, only to be surprised by poor matric final results. To whom should the issue be addressed if the learner felt that the mark they got was not in line with their expectations?

She supported the proposal to keep the social grant going for learners who were still school, despite their age, because this was proving to be a major factor regarding performance.

She highlighted that there were schools that had high tuition fees, such as boarding schools, and these were not accessible to some black learners who could benefit from them. She asked what the DBE was doing to even out that inequality.

The DBE should ensure that the feeding schemes at schools benefited the scholars and not the teachers, who were often reported to be benefiting more from the scheme than those for whom the schemes were intended.

Ms M Sukers (ACDP) asked how many male learners were recorded to have dropped out of schools, and how the DBE was planning to reintegrate them into the system. She said the Monde High School in Mitchells Plain was classified as a Quintile 4 school, and had many scholars from poor backgrounds who could not afford to continue.

She asked how the DBE could assist in solving social ills such as the pregnancies that befell some of the learners, causing them to drop out.

She said the system was not attracting individuals who were passionate enough in the mathematics department, so intervention was needed in order to get improved marks in the subject. How was the department planning to work on improving the mathematics situation?

Mr S Ncobo (IFP) presented a query from a parent of a student at the Ria College in Durban, who had complained that a teacher had gone on a sick leave for a prolonged period and the students had no one to teach them. He said that mathematics was a subject that needed passionate people, as other subjects appeared less challenging for the learners.

He inquired about the General Education Certificate (GEC) in Grade 9, and asked if the DBE was considering having this certificate quality assured by UMALUSI. What were the Department and UMALUSI planning to do about this?

Ms Adoons (said she believed more could be done if the UMALUSI recommendations could be implemented by the DBE. The Portfolio Committee needed to do reviews and ensure the correct working order of the system.

The issue of nutrition and scholar transport was important, as it directly affected the performance of learners, as had been highlighted in the presentations. All the departments needed to come together and focus on the teaching and learning process of the pupils.

She said that the Funza Lushaka bursary programme must be a vehicle to drive and increase the teachers in the maths and science streams, as these were seemingly not getting enough attention.

The Chairperson asked how some provinces could initiate their marking process before the others, querying whether that would not compromise the integrity of the exams. To which department should candidates address their queries if they felt unsatisfied with their examination results? What was causing some learners to register but end up not writing the exams at the end of the year, as the starting number was not always the finishing number?

She asked why UMALUSI was using vehicles that were not in a suitable condition for transporting exam papers, suggesting that it would rather be easier to transport the papers using a courier.

There was a technical school in Limpopo that was supported by a mine, and it had been closed due to a lack of funding, despite the need for technical schools. She asked what the DBE’s plans were with regard to establishing more technical schools.

Presenting entities’ responses

Dr Rakometsi, answering the question on addressing discrepancies relating to exam results, said that any candidate was free to request a re-marking of their question paper should they feel the need to do so. The system of re-marking was designed so it did not allow for the candidate’s initial mark to drop, but it only rose if indeed there was a mistake in the marking.

The technical team at UMALUSI had met to discuss the GEC because learners were currently being formally examined only when they got to Matric. The GEC certificate would be obtained by all learners who passed grade 9, so that those who wished to exit the system could do so, but those who wanted to continue towards attaining a Matric certificate could carry on.

He commended the Committee for holding the Department and UMALUSI accountable, as this would help the entities to improve their systems.

As far as vehicles used for transporting exam question papers was concerned, that role was left to the schools, who transported the papers themselves. It was not UMALUSI cars that were being used for the transportation.

In conclusion, he said that the principals of schools were familiar with the processes of UMALUSI, and had confidence in its systems, but the entity would go out on a campaign to re-educate the principals on its systems and proceedings.

Mr Padayachee stated that everybody struggled with mathematics, but the learners needed to be taught resilience so that they approached it with perseverance. An audit needed to be done in order to assess the teachers of mathematics. He said that no marks had been adjusted for the maths and physics papers in the last exam.

Learners were showing an inability to deal with activities that required a cognitive stretch, and they needed training in this regard because some of them carry beliefs on what they could and could not do, hence the development of the stigma around mathematics.

Deputy Minister Mhaule responded that in the new administration, it was essential to give focus and attention to vocational and technical schools, and the Department was looking at reopening any such schools that had been closed down for various reasons.

Addressing the issue of maths teachers, she said that there was a need for passionate young individuals who could teach the subject, the only problem being that those individuals who were passionate enough about the subject, ended up in disciplines such as engineering. The young teachers studying under the Funza Lushaka programme were the ones who were excited about teaching the subject and about giving back to the communities in which they grew up. There were also candidates who passed maths with distinctions, but were roaming around doing nothing. These were the ones who should be targeted and trained in teaching the subject.

She explained the quintile ranking, stating that a school from a town could end up being classified as a Quintile 3 school due to its material condition. It was the number of learners from disadvantaged backgrounds and the school’s material condition that determined the quintile classification of a school.

Regarding underprivileged learners attending a fee-paying school, the Department had ruled that those learners should receive the same benefits as learners from non-fee paying schools. There were always problems emanating from tender opportunities, so all South Africans should be working towards ensuring that learners were helped with nutrition and other resources. She pointed out that recipients of a social grant came from the poorest of families.

Ms Mhaule said that it was not uncommon for an under-performing principal of a school to blame UMALUSI, or the Department in general, in the same way that an under-performing learner would blame everyone but themselves for their poor performance.

Mr Ncobo added that the issue around mathematics had a highly psychological effect, as most learners were fed the idea that maths was difficult, so they ended up approaching it with a negative attitude, which in turn led to their failure in the subject.

The Chairperson congratulated the entities which had presented on a job well done. She said any further questions could be addressed to the relevant entities in writing.

The meeting was adjourned.


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