SCORES of headmasters and teachers around the country are writing examinations on behalf of other people for a fee to enable them to secure employment, The Standard has heard.
Teachers and headmasters interviewed last week said the practice was most common in remote areas, where the possibility of getting caught by officials from the Ministry of Education would be low.
"In most cases, it would be a racket involving two or more people at the school," said one teacher at a school in Gweru. "What you should know is that it is difficult for a teacher to sit for an examination for an external student without the headmaster knowing it."
The teacher said although this was also happening at primary level, the practice was most common at O'Level and A'Level.
A headmaster at a school in Kariba was recently arrested for allegedly writing a June O'Level mathematics examination paper for two external candidates who promised him payment if they passed.
Fish Tarzen Chiyangwa of Mola Secondary School in Kariba district, sat for the examination in June this year on behalf of one Mairos Siyabwanda and John Makayi, both under Chief Mola.
Chiyangwa pleaded guilty to the charge and was duly convicted and sentenced to six months in prison, which would be wholly suspended if he pays a fine of US$400.
Last month, another headmaster from Gokwe appeared before a magistrate charged with six counts of fraud after he allegedly wrote an O'Level mathematics examination paper on behalf of candidates for a fee in November last year.
Bitone, the headmaster of Mhumha Secondary School, was allegedly charging his victims between US$150 and US$200 each for the test.
Two senior teachers from Katsande Secondary School and another from Chikukwa Secondary School in June appeared before a magistrate in Mutoko, facing charges of criminal abuse of duty after sitting for exams for other people.
Jackson Chibisa, a headmaster at Katsande Secondary School, his deputy Douglas Maquina, and their colleague Timothy Mavariro, a headmaster at Chikukwa Secondary School, were accused of facilitating the writing of a June O'Level mathematics paper for Violet Chikaripo in her absence.
Chikaripo, who had flunked four times, is wife to Maquina. Mlambo was caught red-handed by Zimsec officials from Marondera, "sitting" on Chikaripo's paper.
"This is just the tip of the ice-bag," said another teacher at a school in Chinhoyi.
"If the Ministry of Education was to carry out thorough investigations, it will be discovered that a lot of teachers and headmasters have done it or are doing it."
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) national coordinator, Ladistous Zunde said the issue of education officials writing exams for other people was worrying, especially as the exam dates draw near.
He said in some remote areas of the country, the headmasters are the only ones with access to the exam papers, and "this is tempting, as he can to do whatever he wants".
"Expect more of these this time of the year," he said. "There are a lot of loopholes in the system as there are no monitoring systems in place, even from the movement of exam papers from regional offices to the schools. Headmasters in rural school can open the papers and give to friends and relatives in advance."
Zunde said at some schools in areas such as Rushinga in Mashonaland Central and Nemakonde in Mashonaland West, O'level drop outs, with no knowledge of administration, are running the learning institutions.
Minister of Primary and Secondary Education Lazarus Dokora could not be reached for comment.
But last week, the education minister expressed concern over increasing cases of corruption in schools countrywide.
MORE DECAY UNEARTHED at BULAWAYO SCHOOLS
In another case of corruption, a headmaster in Mzilikazi district in Bulawayo is under investigation by the Ministry of Education after he allegedly registered bright pupils only as formal students, while those considered "dull" were registered as external pupils.
A source in the Education ministry said this was discovered when the students started writing their examinations last week.
"By doing this, the headmaster wanted to attain the best pass rate in the district, but this was discovered by alert invigilators," said the source. "PED [provincial education director] Dan Moyo is handling the case."
There are allegations of corruption at Induba Primary School in the same district, where teachers who retired or were fired are still staying in government houses. Disgruntled serving teachers alleged that the retired teachers were "bribing" district education officials for them to continue staying in the subsidised accommodation.
Under normal circumstances, an employee who would have been fired, resigned, or retired is supposed to vacate government accommodation after three months.
Moyo could not be reached for comment.