The Herald (Harare)

4 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Govt Must Help Zimsec Acquire Printing Press

editorial

Reports that Ordinary and Advanced-Level candidates have not been receiving certificates from the Zimbabwe School Examinations Council since 2010 are disturbing. This calls for a rapid national response since it's a recipe for disaster in the country's education sector.

The Government should expeditiously capacitate Zimsec so that it establishes a state-of-the-art printing press that will eventually cut the cost of printing certificates.

It is disturbing to note that 32 years after independence we are still using a British firm, Smith and Ouzman Ltd to process the certificates for Zimsec. Zimsec has no capacity to produce documents with high security features. We reported on our front page on Thursday that the certificates take time to come out maybe because the British firm is overwhelmed by contracts from other companies. We are also not sure about Zimsec's ability to pay for services on time.

Surely, the Government should swiftly move in and solve this potentially volatile problem as the situation obtaining makes it difficult for thousands of school leavers to pursue their careers.

Since most firms and colleges do not accept results slips, which do not have security features, it is fascinating to note how hundreds of thousands of students churned out from high schools in the last three years have been managing.

The situation threatens to derail the gains that have been made in the education sector since independence and also threatens our highly cherished quality of education.

The Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture should know that due to this failure to produce certificates on time, some students have produced fake result slips which they have used to secure employment, enroll for Advanced Level, universities and some colleges.

During verification, some of these people will be found in possession of degrees and diplomas yet they have inferior results at Ordinary and Advanced Levels.

This will be embarrassing to the parent ministry and the country at large and this challenge calls for the Government to channel money towards procuring a printing press for Zimsec.

Deputy Minister for Education Sport, Arts and Culture Dr Lazarus Dokora should walk the talk and ensure the matter is taken to the highest level of Government decision-making process for a solution to be hammered with immediate effect.

To the Deputy Minister, yes, the printing press would help clear the backlog and produce certificates on time, but ensure the document has features that stop it from being forged. The moment you try to do colour prints of the current Zimsec certificate printed in London, a lion on the paper will come out with its mouth open, while the one on the original has a closed mouth.

This is the kind of fortified security features or improved ones that we want Zimsec's new printing press to have.

Deputy Minister Dokora should be lauded for saying: "It is always good for someone to have a certificate the year results are released, but when you are on contract with others, your control over the timelines is tenuous.

"Government should capacitate Zimsec to construct its own printing press because if the situation remains the same, that problem will never end. A printing press will reduce costs of printing for the entity."

Government should ensure that Zimsec's Norton factory for a printing press has the machine running soon, even if it means starving money to other national projects in the quest to secure a better future for this generation. Investment in education is investment for life and the future.

Zimsec director Mr Esau Nhandara should be reminded that people need to be issued with correct and genuine certificates and the business of phoning the examination body to confirm results does not work.

Corrupt officials can be bribed to 'confirm' forged results.

In the meantime when Government is still planning to capacitate Zimsec, why can't they contract the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe's printing press that used to print local bills to do that work for the examination body?

Surely with a few moderations the machines at RBZ can do that job and money that was paid to Smith and Ouzman Ltd will go along way in improving operations at the bank.

Remember, students with result slips cannot secure scholarships to study abroad, cannot secure employment abroad, cannot enroll with foreign universities and colleges.

The generation of students produced over the last three years faces a bleak future and they need everyone' assistance.

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