A KwaZulu-Natal school principal is being investigated for fraud after it was found that matric exam papers that were distributed to pupils were fake, police said.

Director Phindile Radebe said police were still collecting statements from the people concerned and would hand the matter over to the Commercial Crime Unit as soon as the investigation was finalised. No arrest had been made yet.

The Mercury newspaper reported on Thursday that parents of 18 matriculants at a Ballito school opened a case of fraud against the principal on Wednesday after they found that their children were writing a fake paper.

This, after a parent realised that the Afrikaans paper her child wrote was not the same as that written at another school. She contacted the education department and was told that the school was not registered with the department, and neither were any of the matriculants from that school.

A senior KwaZulu-Natal examinations official, who could not be named, told Sapa on Thursday that the pupils would now have to wait a year to re-write the matric exam. There was nothing that could be done at this stage.

He said mock papers downloaded from the internet had been distributed to pupils as their matric exam papers. It was suspected that the school principal was behind the act.

He said that before mid-year a woman from the school had approached the department and requested that her pupils be registered to write the new curriculum exams.

She was told to apply in writing, but did not. “When a department official went to the school to find out what was going on, she said she had second thoughts and decided to withdraw.”

He said that with the new curriculum in place, pupils were registered in Grade 10.

“These unfortunate pupils will now have to prove that they have passed grade 10 and 11 before they can register.

“It is advisable for parents to look at the option of a public school… and misconduct of this nature can only be dealt with by the parents because they don’t fall under the jurisdiction of the department.”

“The school is not registered with us so we have no mandate over it and if there are allegations of fraud, it becomes a police matter,” said provincial education director general Dr Cassius Lubisi.