11 July 2018

Zimbabwe: 'Exam Postponement Calls Misplaced'

When high school students met President Mnangagwa last month, they requested that examinations be delayed.

Their argument was that teachers were absent during part of the year attending to Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) duties.

There have been mixed views on their request, with some dismissing the reason as frivolous while some saw merit in their submission. Teachers, the constituency responsible for preparing candidates for examinations, believe the students who spoke did not honestly articulate their concerns.

The Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) Information officer, Daisy Zambuko dismissed claims by the students saying that teachers who participated in ZEC duties were picked from non-examination classes.

"It is not correct for students to say that they have been disturbed because not all teachers were involved in ZEC duties. Most of the teachers who undertook ZEC duties were selected from non-examination classes," said Zambuko.

Questions were also asked of the scale of representation by the students who spoke to the President.

"There is a possibility that these students who went to plead with the President to postpone public examinations might not be representing every student in the country," Zambuko said.

She added, "I would like to urge the President not to listen to such rants by the students."

Zambuko said that it was true that schools will close earlier by one week but candidates should not say that the term has been cut short because schools will open one week earlier to compensate.

"We urge students not to be lazy or come up with excuses to extend examination dates because it will postpone a whole array of things. Students should also take advantage of holiday schools programmes offered in schools to fully prepare for the examinations," said Zambuko.

The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education is unmoved.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry Dr Sylvia Utete-Masango said examinations had a known timetable and nothing was going to be altered.

"Exams have a known timetable and Zimsec is going ahead with exam preparations as usual. Candidates have already sat for the 2018 June public examinations and in the same manner November candidates are going to sit for their examinations," Dr Masango said.

Students were urged to continue with preparations for their November examinations.

"There is no information about Zimsec withdrawing the 2018 November public examinations. Therefore I urge schools to make arrangements to come up with holiday school lessons for candidates to make sure their candidates are not disadvantaged," she said.

Dr Masango urged students who registered for November 2018 exams to sit for the papers.

"I urge all the students who registered for the November 2018 examinations to sit for exams and if they decide to boycott that becomes their own problem," Dr Masango said.

Parents have expressed mixed feelings about the request made by students to the President. Some of them sided with the students saying the election season affected the quality of Education as compared to other years while others said that candidates must go on and sit for exams.

"Our children were affected during this election period. Most teachers spent the greater part of the first term away from schools as they were busy with registering voters," Mrs Muleya, a Harare parent said.

It appears, they are developing cold feet on behalf of their children.

"We plead on behalf of our children for the Ministry and Zimsec to push the dates for the examinations so that our children may have ample time to study and prepare for exams," Mrs Muleya said.

Another parent from Harare who declined to be named said students should go ahead and sit for exams as usual because elections have always been there.

"Students should write exams despite the disturbances. We all know that elections have always been there and students wrote exams despite elections," they said.

"If they fail to make it in November then they will retry in June, they should not disadvantage the ones who have prepared for the exam," added the parent.

Senior Lecturer in the University of Zimbabwe's Department of Technical Education, Dr Peter Kwaira said the students did well by sharing their perspective with the President.

He stated that students are practicing their rights through problems to their President.

"The students are right, and this shows that they fully understand their rights as they are pleading their problems to their own President," said Dr Kwaira.

Dr Kwaira said that students are quite right in asking for exams to be postponed if they do not feel ready.

"Students are not talking about fulfilling a task but about what they learnt and there is absolutely no problem with them sitting for examinations when they feel ready," said Dr Kwaira.

He also highlighted that the Ministry should not only be concerned about churning out students but rather it should ensure if the students are ready or not. We are not concerned about channelling out students, we don't want a lost generation.

"We should balance. If the students say they are not ready to sit for exams let them sit for the exams when they feel ready," said Dr Kwaira, taking a liberal approach.

He also said that it is a good thing that students are no longer passive recipients but they are now able to stand up for themselves and say out what they expect in education.

"Education is meant to liberate people and it is a good thing that students are no longer passive like in the old days," said Dr Kwaira.

He added; "Students are now able to tell what they expect in education and this is a good thing so I urge players in the education sector to take heed of the plea of the candidates."

The request by students has been largely dismissed as the short second term will be compensated in the next term.

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