HomePoliticsBungling exam boards take standards down the drain

Bungling exam boards take standards down the drain

Lucia Makamure

JEWS in the ghettos used to pour honey on their children’s books to coax them to read and learn.

If Zimbabwean parent

s were to prescribe as much as double the dose of honey, they would still grapple to sustain interest among pupils and students upset by incompetent examination boards that bungle the administration of end of year tests with monotonous regularity.

Gone are the days when Zimbabweans used to take pride in their academic qualifications. Then examinations were effectively administered and the education system was internationally admired.

But writing examinations has become a nightmare in Zimbabwe. Inefficiency has gradually crept into the process of writing, marking and printing results.

Since the Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (Zimsec) took over the administration of examinations in 1998 as government indigenised the tests, standards have plummeted.

A scandal involving the late Education minister Edmund Garwe’s 14-year old daughter appears to have presaged the slide in the education system, once touted as the pride of Africa.

Garwe resigned after his daughter leaked a Zimbabwe Junior Certificate examination paper to friends and schoolmates at a high school in the capital Harare.

This year primary school teachers in Kwekwe district are said to have improvised by transferring answers from ordinary sheets to scanner sheets for their students after there were delays in the delivery of the scanner answer sheets.

Although teachers’ representative unions say three Grade Seven examinations were written before the centres had received scanner sheets for the respective exams, Zimsec director Happy Ndanga confirmed that there were delays but denied that teachers transferred answers for their students.

“There were indeed delays in the delivery of scanner sheets in some areas, due to logistical problems,” Ndanga said.

“However, when that happens there are contingency procedures that are put in place to enable candidates to use ordinary sheets, which will be marked manually. Teachers should never shade scanner sheets on behalf of candidates, except in completing candidates’ personal details.”

Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said what happened was highly unacceptable and Zimsec should be made accountable. He said there was need for government to allocate more money towards education in the national budget.

“They have compromised the whole education system,” Majongwe said.

He said it was illogical to compel teachers to shade answers on answer sheets for pupils on multiple choice questionnaires, saying this comprised the ethics of any examination.

He said under normal circumstances the examination body should not wait for the last minute to deliver stationery.

“Next time when the government plans its budget more money should be allocated to education instead of security and defence as has often happened in the past.”

Papers have “leaked” weeks before they are written, resulting in the postponement of some examinations.

In other instances, examination papers have been mixed up.

Such nightmares replicate themselves come the marking stage as markers gripe over miserly allowances awarded by the examinations board.

Teachers marking Grade Seven examinations have already expressed disgruntlement over the paltry allowances they are getting from Zimsec. Teachers who are getting $20 for a script marked have complained that the allowances are not worth the paper.

“I live in Chitungwiza and need about $1 000 in bus fare alone. I also need money for food and with the money they are giving us I do not think it’s worth the effort for me to go for the marking,” said one teacher.

All this illustrates the degree to which the examination board has been losing its lustre. Zimsec has failed to live up to the legacy bequeathed by University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate.

Markers used to be housed either in hotels or at centralised colleges when marking examination papers. This minimised flaws in examination administration.

There have been incidents where students have claimed their scripts were not fairly marked, as some teachers are believed to be marking the exams under the influence of alcohol. There have been cases when results were mixed up, with some people getting results for subjects they did not write.

The Higher Education Examinations Council (Hexco) is also slowly losing favour in the eyes of many Zimbabweans as it is also failing to deliver quality service.

Examinations at Hexco centres have for the past two years been characterised by confusion. Examinations are delayed, papers get mixed up and in some instances a subject ends up with two different test papers printed.

Recently at Harare Polytechnic, business studies students had to wait until after 8pm to write a paper that was supposed to have been written at 2pm. Science Department students have lost 22 papers, Mechanical Engineering students have lost eight papers and Art students have also lost several papers.

Last year final year Mass Communication students were given a wrong reporting paper on speech writing and had to wait for a whole week until they could get a replacement paper.

Similarly, a press conference paper had to be postponed when the invited guest failed to turn up. Library and Information students for the same year had the shock of their lives when they were given two different papers for the same subject. Harare Polytechnic is receiving one copy of an examination and then they fax the paper to other centres which include Bulawayo Polytechnic.

Harare Polytechnic principal Steven Raza declined to comment on the issue but said examinations were underway.

The University of Zimbabwe has also not been spared, as the college at the moment has no examination stationery. Lecturers are left with no option but to dictate the questions for their students as happened recently during a sociology multiple choice test paper.

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