HARARE – The Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (Zimsec) issued a statement last week advising the public of the suspension of seven officials from the examination body in order to pave way for an audit into leakages of question papers.
Two of the officials were suspended pending retirement, while another executive was sent on three months’ leave pending leaving Zimsec. The remaining five were sent on indefinite leave, pending the outcome of the audit.
This measure came after the November 2017 English Language Paper 2 for “O” Level students had leaked before the examination date.
To correct the embarrassing situation, Zimsec had ordered that students retake the paper, sparking widespread condemnation from angry students and parents.
Two of the aggrieved parents successfully approached the High Court to overturn the decision, with the presiding judge going the extra mile to advise Zimsec to come down hard on the culprits.
After the sobering ruling, Zimsec said it will not appeal the judgment. In fact, it has since issued a public apology for the leakages.
While Zimbabweans are a forgiving people, it is difficult to believe that the Zimsec board which instituted the suspensions is capable of cleaning the mess at the examination body.
Zimsec had previously made the nation to believe that it is revamping its control measures to curb cheating and examination leakages, including holding school principals accountable, securing storage of examination materials, and centralised marking, among others, but these have not been bearing fruit.
We now have a pattern at Zimsec where examination papers have been leaking, soiling the credibility of the country’s education sector.
In suspending the seven officials, we are inclined to believe that Zimsec was merely reacting to the High Court ruling, without which innocent parents and students would have been made to carry the cross on behalf of blundering officials at the examination body.
We are convinced that drastic measures are long overdue at Zimsec. And this should start with the minister of Education dismissing the current board and replacing it with credible men and women who can shake up things there. The mandate of the new board would be to institute a thorough investigation into the leakages, plug the loopholes and bring in new faces that inspire confidence.
Alternatively, the minister can set up a commission of enquiry to get to the bottom of the shenanigans taking place at Zimsec, before taking convincing action to correct the situation.