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Integrity Poser: Exam Leaks Haunt Zimsec

Harare – The ability by the Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (Zimsec) to administer credible examinations has once again come under spo...

Harare – The ability by the Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (Zimsec) to administer credible examinations has once again come under spotlight after the department has ordered all 2017 Ordinary Level candidates to rewrite a leaked English Paper 2, denting the country’s once revered education system.

The move will affect over 260 000 candidates who sat for the examination, with Zimsec director Esau Nhandara, however, promising the results will be released at the earliest convenience – thereby delaying the rest of the results.

Derick Matsengarwodzi
Education Minister Professor Paul Mavima said the ministry regretted the inconvenience caused but the move was worthwhile as it would preserve the integrity of the examinations system.

In 2017, days before the intended exam, 12 candidates were nabbed by police while in possession of an Ordinary Mathematics Paper 1. The culprits, who have since appeared in court, claim they acquired the paper for $10 (R135) from an anonymous provider.
Examination Leaks have haunted Zimsec 

Perennial examination leakages have dogged Zimsec, with perpetrators, occasionally teachers illicitly obtaining question papers and later retailing them to candidates, resulting in deferment of certain examinations.

Costly Blunders
In 2012, Zimsec had to reset 13 Ordinary Level examinations at a cost of $850 000 (R11 475 million) after a headmaster lost the exam papers while travelling on public transport to his rural school.

Previously, Zimbabwe public examinations were administered by the University of Cambridge Local Examination Syndicate. Since the late 1990’s, Zimsec an autonomous board oversaw examinations in collaboration with Cambridge, before assuming an exclusive role in 2000.

However, the number of former Group A schools reverting to the original Cambridge examinations has risen to 60 percent from 30 percent, with the government calling it a luxury and further contemplating taxing students.

The recent exam leakages occurred soon after Zimsec had assured the nation that exam tempering would be plugged.

“As Zimsec, we have done everything to prevent leakages. We don’t work alone, but we work very closely with the parent ministry and the community,” said Nhandara, while presenting a new managerial board.

Days later, Zimsec admitted another bout of leakages, after a public outcry.

“We do not take anything for granted. It is in this context that a dozen largely independent candidates had undue access to the Ordinary Level Mathematics Paper 1 question paper and fortunately, the culprits have been presented to the courts with high prospects for conviction and sentencing in the course of the week,” said Zimsec.

Nobody to Blame

Former education minister, Lazarus Dokora once noted that the perpetual problems were caused by minimal supervision in certain schools.

“Lack of supervision in the school and at provincial levels has caused breach of security by allowing leakage of examination – therefore, no headmaster will be responsible for any examination material henceforth,” reasoned the education minister.

Retired educationist, Howard Mbeva believes more strict standards must be applied to any examination centre.

“Zimsec must apply more stringent standards before conferring an examination centre status. Schools administering Cambridge examinations earn the right to do so and if they breach any rules, they lose that status,” Mbeva, the educationist revealed.

Faced with mounting trials in overseeing examinations, Zimsec contemplates launching a technology pilot project, which will only allow examination packages, secured by a smart lock to be conveniently opened from a designated command centre to minimise leakages.

Leakage History
Paper leaks have been attributed to poor controls and corruption by responsible officials. Though Zimsec has vainly tried to distance itself from the debacle, some headmasters have been using their vehicles or public transport to deliver examination packages.

The initial examination leak dates back to 1996, when the late Education minister, Edmund Garwe resigned after his daughter gained access to a Junior Certificate paper.

Gokomere, a renowned missionary school, had its O Level Chemistry results withheld in 2005, alleging the teacher revealed the paper to students prior to the examination.

“While there is uproar over these exam leaks, personally I am not surprised. The main problem emanates from the fact that people are lacking ethics, honesty, accountability, transparency and integrity,” Collin Nyabadza, a parent said.

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