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Zimsec under fire over leaks

by Staff reporter
21 Oct 2022 at 06:02hrs | Views
With reportedly several leaks of Zimsec public examination papers this year, although only the Mathematics 1 O'Level paper has been confirmed, many in the education sector see the main fault with the systems used by the Zimbabwe School Examination Council and the solution being a tightening of Zimsec administration.

Zimsec itself says it is investigating all the reports of suspected leaks, although only confirming the single paper so far, and will nullify all results of candidates who had prior access to any paper and will deal "decisively" with any school or examination centre which abetted any leak, including if necessary de-registration of the centre.

Heads, who regard the administrative systems now used at schools as sufficiently foolproof, pointed at Zimsec as the main source of the problem, rather than schools.

It was also suggested that the last minute exam preparation at some private schools the night before a paper was written could be a contributing factor, or at least open the door to abuse.

The Zimsec system is supposed to ensure any breach of security is automatically discovered instantly.

Papers are packed in sealed envelopes and collected fairly shortly before the exam is written.

The envelope is supposed to remain sealed and be only opened just before the exam in front of all the candidates, with an official witness, so that everyone is sure no one had prior entry into the packet.

This is taken to the level that where the number of candidates needs more than one classroom for writing the exam then the school order of papers is split into several sealed packets, so each group can see their papers being opened.

However, critics of Zimsec say that there is potential, especially with modern digital technology, for the leak to be an electronic leak of the digital file of a paper.

That would tend to move the leak back into Zimsec's orbit.

National Association of Secondary Heads chair Mr Arthur Maphosa said it was disheartening to hear of the leaked exams after the hard work schools, teachers and candidates put into these examinations.

"It is sad that after all the time we take preparing learners and you just hear of these leakages. You just feel sorry for the learners, teachers and parents. It is bad and it needs to end.

"Nonetheless, the problem is not at schools. I think it is emanating from Zimsec and they need to tighten their security to avoid the leakages.

"Also some private schools might be partly to blame. The way some run the examination processes is suspicious like the things we hear that some teachers prepare for examinations with learners up-to the last night of the exam in what they call an examination gala," said Mr Maphosa.

National Association of Primary Heads (NAPH) chair Mrs Cynthia Khumalo said primary schools were not affected by the leaks, but nevertheless recognised that these were worrisome.

"From our end we did not encounter any challenges, but that it is happening is a huge cause for concern. We need to protect the credibility of our education system. Zimsec needs to tighten their security system for the integrity of our examinations.

"For public schools I do not think there is any challenge in administering exams. The challenge is with some private schools and there is need to further scrutinise private schools before they are allowed to stage examinations," said Mrs Khumalo.

"We are gathering information and Zimsec will issue a statement. We want this issue to be dealt with expeditiously. Now it is a criminal case and we expect the law to take its course.

"As Government schools we do not condone such behaviour. The integrity of our exams is sacrosanct and needs to be protected."

"We also urge parents, teachers, learners and all stakeholders to reject, resist and report corrupt elements near our education system," said Mr Ndoro.

Some parents who spoke to The Herald in the streets of Harare were not happy because of the suspected exam leaks.

"This is bad and it demoralises the children who put in hard work preparing for the exams. We hope Zimsec can quickly address this rot," said Ms Martha Dube.

"This is sad. Zimsec must put adequate systems in place to protect these exams. The best way is to order a rewrite of the leaked exams," said Mrs Tinaye Mutizwa.

In response Zimsec said they will punish all those found on the wrong side.

"The Council has zeroed in on schools/centres and localities that are considered hot spots and has intensified the monitoring of these centres. It is emphasised that the council has the mandate to de-register schools and centres that are caught engaging in examination malpractice.

"Candidates who are found to have had pre-access to examination materials will have all the results nullified. School authorities who aid or abet such practices will also be dealt with decisively," said Zimsec in a statement.

"The council is working closely with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and security operatives to reign in on infringements of the rules and regulations governing the ongoing examinations.

"We would like to acknowledge the vigilance of candidates, teachers, and parents who have alerted Zimsec and the authorities of cases of malpractice where they have suspected them and implore all stakeholders to remain on high alert to assist all efforts being made by the council to stamp out the malpractice scourge that is threatening the integrity of our examination system."

Source - The Herald