People’s Democratic Party Deputy National Spokesperson Nqobizitha Khumalo has rapped the Ziombabwe School Examinations Council over the continuous leak of examinations in the country.
He said when Zimsec was established there were mixed reactions.
“Some of us cognisant of the corruption in low and high places and the incompetence of government departments were rather skeptical while those in the bootlicking camp welcomed it as a good development. Yet almost every year there are rumours of the leaking of examination papers,” he said.
“The Herald confirmed what everyone has always known; examinations leak. Yes, it was confirmed today but almost everywhere it was a known fact. If a commission were set up to go on the ground they would be surprised by what they would find. Infact what we believe is that almost all papers leaked. An honest inquiry would reveal more than meets the eye.”
He said this totally erodes confidence in the local examination body to hold an examination.
“It seems all their methods have failed. Corruption and general incompetence are everywhere and everything done locally is suspect. Even the government itself confirmed this suspicion on itself when they contracted a foreign company to mint bond notes. We do not trust the Zanu Pf government to run elections. All this is based on evidence of gross corruption and incompetence. What then makes us expect that after all this they will run examinations efficiently. One wonders if we do not need, like in elections, independent observers local and foreign to assess if examinations were free and fair,” Khumalo said.
“This situation is very disturbing as it renders meaningless the whole concept of examinations. Of special concern is the fact that millions of dollars will have gone into preparing for the exercise , the bulk of which comes from hard pressed parents. Leaking of examinations is the highest form of national sabotage and not the imaginary sanctions so long used as a scapegoat for every failure by the government. One asks if it is the British sponsoring this leakage.”
Khumalo said Zimbabwe is well known for its high standards in terms of education.
“However, these scandals do nothing to enhance the chances of our graduates on the job market locally and internationally. What employer would accept one with results that are most likely tainted? Our own tertiary institutions may have no choice but those outside are not under any obligation to accept such compromised students,” he said.
“This indeed is a national scandal and should be treated as such. However, the whole thing is a labyrinth. Where exactly do we start? The Ministry? Yes, the ministry is indeed compromised. We had a whole minister, at one time who leaked, of all papers, a grade seven one to his daughter. Corruption is so endemic in this country that we are becoming like the legendary kleptomaniac who would steal even his own coat to sate the urge to steal.”
“Oh, yes, we have had cases where papers were rumoured to have leaked right from the examinations body. We have that case where Zimsec officials actually awarded themselves hefty A’level marks in subjects they had not sat for. Yes, Zimsec is indeed tainted.”
Khumalo asked as to where exactly are the papers packed.
“Is the place leak proof? We have questions.Heads of schools/ examination centres? Yes, here too we have a,problem. Cases of mismanagement here have been heard and there are many. Papers arrive at the centre before the day of the examination. The next morning they are opened before candidates and teachers. But in most cases the total number of envelopes is not disclosed,” he said.
“What if the person in charge opened one in the evening and kept the opened envelope in the office after leaking to his charges or others for a fee? In moving around from class to class the opened envelope is then smuggled in. This explains the efforts by subject teachers in many schools to frantically give “final touches ” early in the morning of exam day after “spotting” the questions. What of the evening afterwards? What if the exams officer opens the envelopes tampers with the answer sheets and then closes them up in a new envelope? Is there a foolproof method of preventing that? Yes, such suspicions and rumours fly around and usually there is substance behind every such rumour.”
“What are the causes really. Why this sudden increase in cheating? I pointed out before that we have accepted dishonesty as honourable and acceptable but there are other reasons too.”
He said the job market is too narrow and the competition is stiff.
Khumalo said the feeling is that one with better marks has a higher chance of making it there.
“This is a sign of national desperation and calls for a holistic solution to halt it. There is also desperation on the part of those who sell the papers. Everyone wants to make a quick buck. That too is a sign of national desperation and calls for holistic solutions. There is also stiff competition among schools especially private colleges. It is a known fact that private colleges have sprung up everywhere like mushrooms, with most of them not fitting the criteria set by government. In most cases you simply need to clench your fist, flash that magic card or rattle a few notes and your bathroom is given college status,” he said.
“It seems there is no limit to the number of colleges per given area and this has led to unhealthy competition among private colleges. The higher the pass rate then for a given college then the higher its chances of a higher enrolment. This has led to this high level of buying and selling of exam papers. The internet and social media have made the task easier.”
He said there is need therefore for a complete overhaul of the education system under a more competent administration.
“The Zanu Pf government has proved incapable. I suggest some caretaker solutions to this problem. Re-engagement of an international examination board like Cambridge, A. E. B and London Overseas Examination Council. Exams did leak under these councils but the extent was quite low. I know this is an unacceptable alternative for jingoistic and nationalistic reasons but it is my point of view that such an action may once more make our O’ level graduates walk with their heads high with the best and ahead of the rest in African and world education,” he said.
“It is my belief that this system of moving about bulky envelopes with examination papers in them is obsolete in this day and age where information technology is at such an advanced stage. The new regulations should be that every centre must have a computer connected to the internet, a printer and a strong generator or solar panel in case of electricty failure or no electricity.”
He said examinations must be set the same day and posted via the internet with students already seated in the examination room.
“The printer then starts spewing papers which must be written within twenty minutes of their printing. How are question set on the same day? Examiners set more than a hundred question per examination. The computer makes a random selection of the required number of questions which are immediately sent to examination centres. The paper should be new to every body on examination day including Zimsec officials,” he said.
“The papers must be taken to the education offices on the same day. A car, hired or purchased, should be on standby on examination day and that too should be a requirement. The number of envelopes in which to send the answer sheets should br fixed per school and any left overs should be returned. Spoiled ones should be taken to education offices with the answer sheets.This may not be a foolproof solution but it can go a long way towards eradicating or significantly reducing the rate of examination leakage in our schools and once more re-establishing confidence in our education system.”
He said parents and the taxpayer lose a lot of money towards examinations and it is an affront and insult to them to allow this system to continue unchecked.
“I repeat this is a national scandal and crisis. The PDP and its PRC partners condemn in the strongest terms all forms of corruption. When in government in 2018 it will work hard to ensure that corruption is brought to an end,” he said.