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Exam results scandal rocks Zimbabwe Open University

by Staff reporter
01 Sep 2011 at 06:39hrs | 1220 Views
HARARE – A serious examinations' results scandal has rocked the Zimbabwe Open University (Zou), throwing the authenticity of some students' qualifications into serious doubt. The scandal resulted in the postponement of a graduation ceremony last year.

Students have qualified in various fields amid revelations their results would have been doctored by data capture clerks who had formed a syndicate specialising in receiving bribes to alter examination results.

Four clerks in the data capturing department have since been fired from the institution over the issue.

Two other employees from the same department have been dragged before a disciplinary committee to answer similar charges and may face dismissal as well.

The Daily News has it on good authority that two female staffers were fired following a disciplinary hearing held on June 28, while two male workers were sacked last Tuesday for "fraudulent alteration of student marks".

The termination letters were signed by a B. Mafunga, the director of human resources and copied to the chairperson of the workers' disciplinary committee, Gabriel Kabanda.

The Daily News has copies of the letters of dismissal.

One of the letters reads "Following the disciplinary hearing proceedings held on 28 June 2011, the Staff Disciplinary Committee has ruled that you are guilty as charged.

"The staff disciplinary committee, after a perusal of the misconduct documents pertaining to your case has overwhelming evidence to the effect that you altered the student record of (Name and student number given) 14 times on July 16 2011."

Furthermore, the letter stipulated that the actions of the said employees violated Section 4(a) and Section 4(d) of the Labour Regulations 2006.

Mafunga added: "Accordingly, therefore, the staff disciplinary committee has ruled that you be dismissed from service with effect from after duty on 31 July 2011.

This penalty is in terms of section 7 (3) of the already mentioned regulations."

According to sources, the matter came to light last November after one of the lecturers at the institution queried results of some of his students.

It is alleged that the lecturer, who was certain about the number of his students who were supposed to graduate, was shocked when a completely different figure was given before graduation.

Upon raising issues about his students' graduation, the institution's administration was forced to suspend the graduation ceremony scheduled for November 2, moving it three weeks  later to November 26 to pave way for investigations.

No reasons were given for the postponement.

"The university never explained to anyone why the graduation date had been moved and I think the plan was to make sure that the matter would not get to the university Chancellor, President Robert Mugabe, and the Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education (Zimche)," said the source.

Zimche council chairperson, Christopher Chetsanga professed ignorance about the scam.

"I am not aware of the matter. But I endorse the expulsion of such workers," Chetsanga told the Daily News yesterday.

The university registrar, Daniel Ndudzo, could neither confirm nor deny the existence of such a scandal at the institution.

He requested to be granted more time to respond to written questions.

A worker with the university attributed the problem to an insecure database system.

"What makes it more curious is that the workers were charged of fraud but the matter was never reported to the police."

"With the graduation season on course, how can the university testify to the Chancellor, President Robert Mugabe that all students he will cap are bona fide," asked the source.

"While action is being taken against members of staff, nothing is being done to the students involved in the scandal as they are allowed to carry on with their studies.

Zou rules and regulations require that such students be brought before the students' disciplinary committee with appropriate action taken including suspension from studies for a specific period or expulsion," said the source.

According to the worker, the scandal started a long time back and had been happening sporadically as a well-guarded secret until recently when more and more cases were reported, compromising the quality of the degrees offered by the university.

"Even if the university react to the crisis now, the question that will remain unanswered is that: "How many have passed through the system and filtered into industry and commerce including other spheres of life with these fake qualifications, wittingly or unwittingly sponsored by Zou.The nation need answers," said the source.

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