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Controversy continues to dog Zimsec

SIXTEEN-year-old Tino Mutemwa is a distressed Form 4 pupil at a secondary school in Dzivaresekwa Extension after government cancelled seven Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec) Ordinary Level exam papers following a break-in at a school in Masvingo.

Like any pupil sitting for examinations that started on October 19, she had planned and was well- prepared. But now Tino is confused, anxious, fearful and unsure of her future since the re-setting of the tests.
Tino, showing the confusion that has shrouded the examinations, said: “I didn’t go to school that day (November 3, the date set for the Geography Paper 2 examination) because my understanding was that the paper was going to be re-done. But to my surprise when I went to school the following day to sit for another exam some of my friends told me I had missed the geography paper the previous day.
“I couldn’t believe it. It affected me so much such that when I sat for the exam I lost concentration, all I could think of was that I had missed the paper and automatically had failed the exams.”
Luckily for Tino, she can still sit for Geography 2, which was one of the seven papers to be reset.
While Zimsec has been commended for improving the delivery of exam papers, perennial problems seem to haunt the examination body each year.
In 2006, a Hurungwe headmaster Makisi Jimu of Dandawa Secondary School in Magunje, lost three O’Level examination papers to a stranger he had given a lift to on his way from collecting the papers.
In 2009, thieves broke into Maxim Primary School in Matabeleland North and stole Zimsec Grade 7 general and mathematics examination papers, answer sheets and stationery.
Last year, due to strikes by markers protesting against poor salaries, dates for examinations had to be changed on several occasions.
In addition to lack of resources, students have been getting results for subjects they did not write.
While things seemed to have improved a great deal due to government effort and donor assistance, controversy seems to follow Zimsec and people are now questioning whether it is capable of running smooth exams.
Trouble resurfaced for Zimsec two weeks ago when seven exam papers were stolen from a school identified as Chingogwe Secondary School in Masvingo.
When the papers were stolen, pupils had already written Shona Paper 1 which has now had to be reset.
Other affected papers are English Language 1 and 2, Geography 2, Shona 2, Mathematics 1 (non-calculator) and Mathematics 1 (calculator).
University of Zimbabwe lecturer in the Education department Godfrey Museka said the continued leaking and disruptions of Zimsec exams each year had a negative impact on the credibility of the local examinations body.
“Leakages can never be tolerated in the Zimsec system and I personally think that heads must roll at Zimsec to ensure efficiency and professionalism. I want to assume that some of the bosses at Zimsec are political appointees some of whom don’t have the skills to run the examination body,” Museka said. “It is the responsibility of Zimsec to ensure that there is adequate security at schools where Zimsec examinations are written.”
“Because of these leakages universities outside the country might begin to doubt the credibility of the students’ results or the quality of education in Zimbabwe because they will take into consideration that exams during that year leaked.”
An independent campaigner of governance, public policy reform and democracy David Takawira told the Zimbabwe Independent that the leakages of exam papers made one question Zimsec’s competency level.
“At one goal, one is shocked at the current operational paralysis that has bedevilled a transitional academic authority. Zimsec, no matter which yardstick of human development is used, the institution has regressed significantly in the last years,” Takawira said. “I think Zimsec is committing academic fraud, its institutional credibility as the oasis of academic leadership is at stake not to mention the competence of academia we as a country would produce.”
He said Zimsec should put in place current international academic standards “hence someone somewhere should answer to this mockery.”
“While many have asked the leadership and competencies of the institution, it is still worrying to note that the institution stills fails to achieve the basics. Is it that government has failed to secure institutional and financial support for Zimsec or it’s the general reflection of what went wrong in the country?” queried Takawira.
“The failure to adopt new modules and syllabuses which are in-tune with the 21st century leaves a lot to be desired, hence the process of education is all but flawed and the result would be shameful.”
He added that: “Because of the failure by Zimsec, Education has not been spared as facilities have dramatically declined over the years. The underlying challenges of the inadequate management of conflict, poor administration, corruption, partiality, political interference and nepotism in the institutions of higher education have been a daily occurrence. The failure of leadership and management has resulted in all the current prejudices.”
However, Education minister David Coltart said Zimsec had worked hard this year to make sure the smooth flow of exams and it would be unfair to blame the break-in on Zimsec as it was a criminal matter.
“There are regulations that I set to ensure that schools have security and that exams are stored in safe houses. It is very difficult for Zimsec to make sure that each of the 8 000 schools nationwide are complying and even if they comply it is difficult to prevent criminals from breaking into rural schools most of which are flimsily built,” he said.
Coltart said the break-in and leakage of the exams impacted heavily on pupils and the consequences were massive – costing Zimsec tens of thousands of United States dollars.
“It prejudiced a lot of children and children are the ones who suffered most. They had planned for their exams and were fully prepared. Teachers had to extend their invigilating periods, not to mention the costs. Tens of thousands of dollars meant for other projects had to be used,” he said.
“Objectively we have seen a huge improvement in Zimsec as compared to the past two years. I don’t argue that Zimsec is perfect. A lot needs to be done to re-establish public confidence and it’s a process. At the moment we have a strong board and a financial team that has brought a lot of financial discipline. Zimsec will become a centre of excellence in the region.”

 

Wongai Zhangazha

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