The Sunday Mail
Debra Matabvu and Emmanuel Kafe
As the nation comes to terms with Government’s directive last week that the November 2017 English Paper 2 be re-written, educationists, parents and commentators have called for heads to roll at the national examination body, Zimsec, as well its overhaul.
For more than a decade now and almost every year, the Zimbabwe Schools Examinations Council face the ignominy of recalling exam papers, re-sitting an exam paper or dragging candidates to court for cheating.
With last year’s O-Level exams, whose results were expected to be out this week now pushed back to an unknown date, to factor in the re-writing, marking and integration of results, a process which will likely take over a month, this year’s Lower Sixth classes are likely to begin next term.
But parents have been left fuming over the cost of taking their children to the different examination centres across the country to re-sit the examination, scheduled for 10am this Friday.
The re-sitting of the examination is something that Zimsec and the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education could have avoided if the two bodies had heeded information and advice, according to the Professional Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe president, Dr Takavafira Zhou.
“Why wait for three months to rewrite an examination paper? Zimsec was alerted of the leakages in November last year, but they refuted the matter,” he said last Friday.
“The leakages were in almost every subject, so why concentrate on the English paper only? They are creating unnecessary expenses for the nation and the students.
“Imagine there are some students who were learning at boarding schools, how about those students who had travelled outside the country? There are thousands of dollars that will be used by the country for printing and transportation for these papers.
“Examinations have been leaking every year and nothing has been done about it.”
The Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association was more unforgiving. The association’s chief executive officer, Mr Sifiso Ndlovu, said employees at both Zimsec and the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education had a case to answer, adding, “heads should roll at Zimsec and even at the Ministry of Education’s administration section. Surely, we cannot have exams that leak year-in, year-out with the employees having nothing to do with it.”
In a snap survey on Friday, most parents queried the wisdom of the order of the resit. Some suggested that given the nature of affected subject, the examination body could have used the other unaffected paper to assess students.
Some parents even demanded that Zimsec be disbanded as the examination was failing in its duties, almost an annual basis, as they were failing to learn from their mistakes.
“It seems they are not learning anything from the examination leakages that are happening every year,” Mr Phineas Hwengweri from Glen View, said. “To add to that, there have been several instances of serious mix-ups in the issuing of results.”
Examination leakages have become an annual occurrence in the country, a move that has always been dealing a blow to the country’s education credibility.
In January this year, parents and guardians of 19 pupils from Nagle House High School in Marondera approached the High Court, seeking an order to compel to reverse its decision to cancel their children’s yet-to-be released Ordinary Level results which were nullified late last year over allegations of cheating.
In 2014 O-Level English Language Papers 1 and 2 and Mathematics Papers 1 and 2 leaked at Whata Secondary School in Lower Gweru.
In 2013 Geography Paper 2 and Integrated Science papers were cancelled after the papers had leaked in the Midlands Province.
In 2012, at least 12 O-Level examinations had to be reset at a cost of $850 000 after a headmaster lost the exam papers while travelling by public transport from Bulawayo to his rural school.
The papers, English Language (Paper 1 and 2), Mathematics non-calculator version (Paper 1 and 2), Geography (Paper 1 and 2), Integrated Science (Paper 1, 2 and 3), Commerce (Paper 1 and 2) and Ndebele (Paper 1 and 2) were allegedly lost at Renkini long-distance bus terminus in Bulawayo.
In 1996, the then Minister of Education, the late Edmund Garwe, resigned after his daughter was caught with examination papers before they were written.
Addressing a Press conference last week, Minister for Primary and Secondary Education Professor Paul Mavima said there was no other alternative other than ordering a re-sit of the affected exam paper.
“I would want to emphasise that this drastic decision has been arrived at after painstaking and agonising consideration,” he said.
“In the final analysis the decision has been necessitated by the need to maintain and preserve the integrity of the national examination system.
“It is regrettable that some innocent candidates will be inconvenienced by this remedial action, but the circumstances of the cheating left no other option.”
Dr Zhou said what Government must prioritise coming up with measures that curb examination leakages. He said one of the areas that needed serious attention was the mushrooming of private colleges.
“We have private colleges that are now at every corner of the street, in most urban centres,” he added. “In their quest to lure more students to their colleges, they leak the examinations to their classes.
“Some of these colleges are located at residential homes, where a lot of the cheating happens.
‘‘This is not only fuelling examination leakages but also compromising the education quality in the country. In this era of social media, these are some of the areas that Government needs to be looking into.”
At least 260 000 candidates will be affected by the re-write, which has affected the date on which the other results will be announced. Zimsec public relations officer, Mrs Nicolette Dhlamini, said they had no date of when the November 2017 results would be released.
“The November 2017, O-Level results will be released as soon as marking of the English paper is done,” she said.
“In addition, we do not know how much will be incurred from the exercise, but when such things happen, obviously we are paying a price for integrity,” she said.
Traditionally, the Ordinary Level results have always been released during the last week of January or first week of February.
And it is the time of the year that Paul Matavire’s “Ma U, Ungraded” usually receive more air play on all radio stations than any other time of the year.
It is during this time of the year that students who would have made it, start choosing different career paths, with high schools advertising for Lower Sixth places, while those re-writing register for the June and November examinations.