8 December 2013

Zimbabwe: Examinations Body Defends Credibility

The Zimbabwe School Examination Council has defended its credibility despite increasing reports of exam paper leakages blamed on criminal activities of some rogue headmasters and teachers.

Zimsec director, Esau Nhandara last week insisted that the exam body was still reliable and credible despite increasing reports of exam leakages in the past few years.

He said matters of criminal activities by headmasters, teachers and other elements leading to exam leakages were being referred to the police.

"As an organisation, we have not lost our credibility," said Nhandara. "People are still finding us good. We have embraced the e-technology through the adoption of e-marking and e-registration."

Since taking over from the UK-based Cambridge exam body in 1994, Zimsec has been under fire over recurring exam leakages putting a spotlight on its credibility.

A few weeks ago, a headmaster and five teachers from Kwekwe and Gweru, Midlands province, were arrested for allegedly leaking Ordinary Level Geography and Integrated Science papers.

Last year, Zimsec cancelled six Ordinary Level exam papers after they leaked in Matabeleland North Province.

An acting headmaster reportedly lost the papers while travelling from Bulawayo to his school.

Teacher representative bodies are on record saying Zimsec risked losing qualified examination markers by not paying them well and on time, a move that has further adversely affected the credibility of the local examinations.

But Nhandara insisted that Zimsec matched international standards.

"We have international institutions such as National Academic Recognition Information Centre (Naric), a UK body which monitors the quality of exam bodies and has rated us at par with their exam body," said Nhandara. "We are not interested in any criminal activities, our mandate is to serve the interests of the country and we have a bigger objective that we want people to respect."

Nhandara said all criminal-related matters regarding exams leakages were being handled by the police.

"The ministry and Zimsec have faith in the headmasters. We trust them but when such things happen it pains us a lot," he said. "When we identify the culprits, we refer them to the police because they are the experts and they are mandated to deal with criminals."

Nhandara's comments came as more people questioned the credibility of the Zimsec examinations.

Dzivarasekwa One High School student, Joshua Midzi said it is disheartening to have such situations recurring.

"This is very disturbing. I have been sitting for my Ordinary Levels this year and I had sleepless nights and others were just given the papers for free without putting any effort," he said.

One parent, Sandra Manyewe said she wanted to have her children write Cambridge examinations instead of Zimsec in future.

"I am now undecided, we have put all our trust in Zimsec, but it is failing us. My daughter is in primary school, but if this continues I will opt for Cambridge," she said.

University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure said the responsible authorities must come up with measures to curb exam paper leakages so that Zimsec can maintain its credibility.

"The organisation to some extent needs resources to be able to carry out its mandate effectively and diligently. For sure, it affects the credibility of exams and acceptability outside the country," he said.

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