18 January 2013

Namibia: Exam Scam Widens

Windhoek — It has emerged that during the marking of the Grade 12 question papers last year, at least 373 candidates allegedly had prior access to the question papers and the answer sheets in six major subjects.

This latest revelation follows in the wake of a second probe by the Ministry of Education during the marking of Grade 12 answer scripts around October and November last year. The majority of the candidates, 272 to be precise, are from the Caprivi Region, which was the first region to be implicated in the theft of examination papers last year, followed by 84 candidates in the Khomas Region.

The same investigation also found that four candidates who had access to the question papers were from the Kavango Region, while another four were traced to the Omusati Region; three in the Omaheke Region and three others in the Oshana Region. In the Ohangwena Region two candidates were identified, including one from the Erongo Region.

"The ministry has already dispatched a team of competent education officers and subject experts to the regions to work hand in hand with the regional staff for a speedy investigation. The results of the 373 candidates are on hold pending the outcome of the investigation. We promise that these candidates will be informed of the outcome of the investigation as soon as possible," said Dr David Namwandi, the Deputy Minister of Education.

Namwandi said if any of the 373 are found to have participated in the leakage of the question papers and answer sheets or memoranda, the results of the implicated candidates in all subjects will be declared null and void and they will not be allowed to sit for national examinations for a period of one year. The results of the investigation will be announced in three weeks, he said.

"The international and local recognition of our qualifications is critical, thus strategies have to be in place to root out any malpractices related to examinations, including cheating and the leakage [of exam papers]," he emphasised. He assured the public that the ministry will use all the available means at its disposal to protect the credibility and integrity of qualifications.

"Therefore, the proper conduct and the administration of all national examinations is crucial and should not be undermined at any level," said Namwandi.

The 373 suspected candidates exclude the 23 Grade 12 learners who were found in possession of leaked question papers in the Caprivi Region late last year.

Late last year, the ministry and the Namibian police carried out an investigation into the leakage of Grade 10 and Grade 12 final examination question papers and answer sheets, and concluded that leakage was confined only to the Caprivi Region. The probe led to the arrest of an adult who was charged with selling the papers to the learners for an alleged N$500 a piece.

The alleged exam scam mastermind, Manga Wakumelo, is a former employee of the Directorate of National Examinations and Assessments, where she was responsible for typing question papers and marking answer sheets. According to the findings at the time, out of 1 061 Grade 12 learners in the Caprivi Region, only 23 learners were involved, translating into a mere 2.2 percent regionally and a negligible 0.0055 percent of the 41 891 Grade 12 learners registered for the examinations in 2012.

Of the 23 Grade 12 learners involved in the scam, 14 were full-time, while nine were part-time candidates. The 23 learners involved in the leakage are not allowed to sit for any national examinations for a period of one year as a form of reprimand. The Minister of Education Minister Dr Abraham Iyambo last year ordered markers of Grade 12 examination scripts to be on the lookout for candidates who might have been in possession of stolen exam papers, and that is how the 373 candidates were exposed.The leaked papers were for Ordinary Level subjects, including English, Development Studies, Biology, Agriculture, Business Studies and Economics. The leak did not affect Grade 10 and Grade 12 higher-level subjects.

Education authorities say the names of the schools will be made public when the investigation is finalised. The ministry declined to reveal the mechanism or strategy employed to identify the suspect culprits during the marking of the papers, saying it will compromise the ongoing probe.

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